The Great Debate - was the North Place and Portland Place development a missed opportunity?
THE development of North Place and Portland Street car parks, has been approved. Here council leader Steve Jordan and Stephen Clarke, chairman of Cheltenham Civic Society, ask whether the developers and Cheltenham Borough Council got it right:
On the one hand, we as a society have supported the redevelopment of North Place, but we just think some of the buildings could have been better.
There are various views on the housing that have been proposed, particularly the big apartment block building, and we felt that there were more imaginative designs which could have been put in there.
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We were looking for something that was a bit better designed. We were also not convinced about whether the supermarket along St Margaret's Road really fits in well.
It would have been nice not to have a supermarket and car park – but that is almost a lost battle now.
Saying that, redevelopment of the land is important to me and to the society and linking Pittville to the town centre is important.
We were hoping for more on the Portland Street site because we were seeing it as the Northern Promenade and we wanted something grander.
There were concerns about the traffic impact of the supermarket and also, with the location, being in the town centre, we wondered if it was really a location for a supermarket.
We wanted a bigger square with housing and something to try and shift the balance of the town centre a little bit further north so there was encouragement for people to walk up there, with a grander promenade, but primarily it was about housing.
Our disappointment was the architecture. Cheltenham is known for its architecture and we have such great buildings – we were hoping in the 21st century for something that stood out and would attract people to Cheltenham.
I don't think these plans will really add to that. This site was the one opportunity we had to put something great in.
Councillor Steve Jordan:
The council already owned Portland Street car park, but the potential hotel development that didn't happen triggered us buying the site and it has always been identified as a key development site.
Having it as a car park is clearly beneficial because of the income it generates for the council but it looked a bit shoddy.
This development is a good thing for the town and a very positive thing.
We don't have a big wad of cash to do this, so we have been trying to manage what we want with what we could get somebody to pay for.
If you aim too high you risk nobody wanting to do it.
We have a good scheme in terms of value to the town but also in terms of income to the council that we can re-invest in the town.
Each area in the town has its own supermarket but the town centre doesn't really have that, so it is quite reasonable to have the supermarket on this site.
But it also comes back to what people would be willing to build – it's about getting that balance.
In terms of linking the town centre with Pittville, there is no straight road but I think this development will help.
The plan is that this will help Cheltenham to be a continuously attractive place for people to visit but the fact that we have got 40 per cent affordable housing I think is great.
It can be difficult to get to that level so it has to be positive because we certainly know that there is a demand for it.