Exclusive interview: Michael Cassidy CBE, chairman of EDC
Collaborating with the surrounding boroughs, creating job opportunities alongside housing, encouraging the supply of high quality homes, broadening the range of tenures offered, speeding up development: these are some of the main objectives of Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC), according to its chairman, Michael Cassidy CBE.
Speaking exclusively to Ebbsfleet Garden City magazine, the former chairman of the Corporation of London said that the most useful pattern between his experience in the City and Ebbsfleet was the necessity of co-operating with surrounding local authorities.
“It’s terribly important to have the two adjoining boroughs, Gravesham and Dartford, feel that we’re part of their wider community,” he said.
Cassidy explained that co-operation was about finding a win-win situation and a clever use of resources. "I hope to augment the £310 million from the Treasury for the next five years with additional sources of funding, to enlarge our effort and our impact. It means deliberate co-operation with Gravesham and Dartford, as our neighbours.”
He stressed that Councillor Jeremy Kite and Councillor John Cubitt, leaders of Dartford Council and Gravesham Council respectively, are on the corporation board, and Kent County Council is represented by Councillor Mark Dance, cabinet member for economic development.
He went on to talk about what he called the “commercial imperative”: “We are keen to balance this community to provide jobs alongside village-based housing. We will develop a commercial cluster by the station and we’ve got enterprise zone status, so we can offer financial incentives.”
Cassidy also spoke of how the EDC is working towards boosting the supply of high quality homes: an indicative design code for housebuilders has been introduced; Section 106 obligations could be rejigged in return for higher quality units; and the EDC is ready to help with building the infrastructure and to shoulder utility costs, so developers save an amount they can put into the build quality.
The EDC chairman would also like to see a broader mix of tenures at Ebbsfleet: “At the moment, it’s all owner-occupied, there’s no rental or shared equity, no self-build – all of which we’d like.”
Speaking of the EDC’s wish of seeing developers speed up delivery, Cassidy explained what the development corporation can do to accelerate the pace of development: “Collaboration is first. We’ll invest in infrastructure and provide a utility corridor.
“We’d like to see some offsite manufacturing of housing elements, to speed up the quantity of delivery.
“We’ll focus on promotion of Ebbsfleet, branding and advertising, seminars, a much stronger website and spreading the word more intensively within the local community.”
Asked if there was any place which might be considered a benchmark for Ebbsfleet Garden City, Cassidy stressed that each site has unique features, but added that Kings Hill in Tonbridge and Malling was “a very good model for a big village”. “The cluster of houses around the central green, the old airfield, is very clever, and the campus of offices, sprinkled in the woodland around it.”
Looking at the future, Cassidy described what success will look like at the five-year midpoint in the life of the EDC: “We’ll see 3,000 to 4,000 new homes. There will be a visible identity for the garden city, a primary and secondary school, the village greens will be in place, as will the green corridors.”