Divided opinion over huge development in North Place and Portland Street in Cheltenham
THESE images show how a multi-million pound regeneration scheme will transform Cheltenham.
Borough councillors have approved plans to turn car parks at North Place and Portland Street into a supermarket, shops, restaurant, and multi-storey car park, as well as 143 new homes each with their own parking space.
However, opinion remains divided over the development.
Some people have praised the regeneration scheme for the new jobs and boost to the local economy it will create.
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But others say the scheme will cause a traffic nightmare, kill off nearby small shops, and ruin the conservation area it is at the heart of.
Members of the planning committee voted 13 to two in favour of the development in front of a packed public gallery.
Councillor Andrew McKinlay (LD, Up Hatherley) led the charge to approve the plans, saying: "This is probably the single most important planning development in the centre of Cheltenham since the Second World War.
"I actually think this is a very good scheme. I think it does a very good job of balancing the conflicting needs of the housing, the parking and the supermarket."
It was said during the meeting that the supermarket was expected to be a Morrisons, but a spokesman for the company yesterday refused to confirm this.
Voting against the scheme, along with fellow Prestbury and PAB councillor Malcolm Stennett, Les Godwin raised concerns over the car park.
He later said: "The multi-storey car park will harm rather than enhance the conservation area. I believe the presence of such a large store in this area will have an adverse effect on the other shops."
Mr Godwin said that anybody who believed the development would not dramatically increase the amount of traffic in the area was "living in cloud cuckoo land".
However, a Gloucestershire Highways representative at the meeting told councillors he did not expect the scheme to hugely impact the town's traffic levels.
Nick Laing, who has spearheaded a residents' campaign against the development, voiced his opposition at the committee meeting.
He told councillors 800 people had signed a petition against the plans, and that he had written to the Secretary of State asking for the decision on the scheme to be called in.
However, planning officer Martin Chandler told councillors the Secretary of State's office had contacted him to say they would probably not call in the scheme.
Clarence Square resident Bruce Buchanan said he was "bitterly disappointed" with the council's decision because he expected the development to cause a huge traffic increase.
But Michael Ratcliffe, chairman of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, said the scheme would breathe new life into the town centre, adding: "It's a way of regenerating that land and it will bring new jobs with it."