In conversation with: John Rice – Runnymede Borough Council
13th December 2018
After our work for Runnymede Borough Council at 168 Egham High Street we’re currently working at Addlestone One. We took the opportunity to talk to John Rice, Director of Commercial Services at Runnymede Borough Council, about the goals for the project, the importance of public facilities and his experiences as a client.
1. What is your role at Runnymede Borough Council?
My role is Director of Commercial Services which means my team and I are responsible for generating new income to support the running of the council’s services as well as the major regeneration schemes underway in Runnymede and Egham. I’m also the Project Director of our regeneration projects, which include the new Egham leisure centre being completed in January and our Egham Gateway West redevelopment, as well as smaller redevelopments of student accommodation and residential units.
2. Why is it important for local councils to invest in public facilities?
Local councils are leaders of the local community and so they have a responsibility to oversee the appearance and commercial viability of their jurisdiction. It’s important to keep public facilities in the area current and modern so that businesses and the resident’s wellbeing thrives. Runnymede Borough Council is currently in the middle of two major town centre regeneration projects and would love to be working on a third. Councils need to be forward thinking about the needs and opportunities in their area to ensure they remain viable commercial and cultural hubs.
3. What are your goals for Addlestone One and what are the unique challenges on this project?
Our overriding goal is to create a new town centre as, historically, the town was formed around residential properties with strips of shops. What is needed is a cohesive town centre with facilities which are modern and fit the context of the area. We want Addlestone to become a destination location – not just a place you might happen to visit or pass through. The project is a mixed use development, bringing in residential units as well as creating retail options and a cinema. The goal is to make the town viable for the future and attract people in.
The programme of works itself is going very well: the main challenge comes from the external factor of the current depression in the commercial market. Across the country, internet sales are threatening high street stores and increasing business rates are adding to the challenge. It’s not ideal timing for such a project, but if Addlestone is going to keep up and ahead it’s a very necessary scheme.
4. What is experience of working with ITC and what led you to work with them again after 168 Egham High Street?
ITC are our second stage contractors, helping us modify the development to be directly available to retailers. We’ve found ITC very easy to work with – they are very flexible and helpful. What is greatly appreciated is that they step beyond the direct works and give support on other construction related matters we have and this is really valued.
5. What do you value most as a client, when working with a contractor?
Ultimately, it comes down to a contractor delivering a good quality of work, delivered to time and at a reasonable budget. We value a smooth, efficient process with minimal snagging issues, as these lead to costly delays.
6. What are your future development goals for Runnymede, beyond Addlestone One?
We have a very ambitious regeneration programme at Runnymede, though right now councils everywhere are facing pressure from budget cuts. It’s important to invest in regeneration, however, as this creates vital commercial income for the area. We currently have six projects underway at various stages of completion!