£20 million development set for Cheltenham High Street
A £20 million scheme to breathe new life into Cheltenham High Street is today being revealed.
More shops, a new hotel and flats are included in the plans, which will see the 1960s buildings between Henrietta and Bennington streets razed and the addition of a new pedestrian link to The Brewery.
Cheltenham Development Task Force has long coveted the project, seen as a key part of regenerating the town.
Cheltenham Borough Council built environment chief Councillor John Rawson (LD, St Peter's) said: "These proposals are a real shot in the arm for the town centre and the best news this area has had for many years. The scheme delivers the much-needed link between The Brewery and the High Street.
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"It provides an opportunity to replace some pretty dismal 1960s architecture with new, more modern and more attractive buildings."
The proposal will see a new entrance to The Brewery, sweeping off the High Street and visible from Boots corner.
The development will create an extension of the shared bus and pedestrian space in the area as far as Henrietta Street.
A total of 100,000 sq ft of shopping floor space will be created, including two large shops and other smaller units, giving the existing tenants the option to remain. It is hoped the development will boost footfall for The Brewery, which has experienced mixed fortunes with the Harvester and the Screening Rooms opening and the closure of Gala Bingo and Habitat.
NFU Mutual, which owns the buildings along with The Brewery, has enlisted developer Martin Commercial Properties and architects Roberts Limbrick to undertake the work.
Bob Martin, manager of Martin Commercial Properties, said negotiations with the buildings' tenants were ongoing. He added: "We will be aiming to attract good-quality retailers to the scheme, that's the intention.
"We don't have any signed up, but it has created a lot of interest already."
Mr Martin was confident they would find an operator for the 104-room hotel, despite warnings from hoteliers that there were enough rooms in the town.
Scott Thorley, chairman of Cheltenham Hospitality Association and Big Sleep general manager, said: "The demand for accommodation in Cheltenham is very low at the moment. The hotels have lower occupancy rates year on year."
He added that Cheltenham had characterful bed and breakfasts and charming independent hotels in the Regency buildings the town was well-known for.
He said: "Another budget hotel might see the closure of some of these properties."
Also included in the plans are 34 apartments, adding to the 19 already in The Brewery.
They will be only available for rent, as the landowners want to retain their stake.
The news about the proposed development was welcomed by people in the town.
Cheltenham West End Partnership spokesman Bernice Thomson said: "It is fantastic news that such a significant investment is coming to this end of town.
"It can only benefit both existing local retailers and Cheltenham overall."
Current tenants in the building include Tesco, Wilkinson and Ryman.
If planning permission is granted, work on the development would start in 2013, with hopes that it would finish two years later.
Cheltenham Development Task Force managing director Jeremy Williamson said: "When the task force published its initial opportunities and challenges document, it was the potential connection of the High Street and The Brewery that the public seized upon. This proposal is in line with that ambition for Cheltenham – helping to improve areas and the connections to them, in this case Boots corner, the High Street and the new developments at North Place."
Residents will be able to see the plans at a consultation event on Friday and Saturday.
They will go on display at unit 14, next to the Cupola Tower in The Brewery, from 10am to 4pm on Friday and from 10am to 1pm on Saturday.
Cheltenham Borough Council will then carry out its own consultation before the planning committee is able to consider the proposals.