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Regenerating Gloucester

PUBLISHED: 12:02 05 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:05 20 February 2013

Regenerating Gloucester

Regenerating Gloucester

Gloucester has had £Â½ billion investment in the last six years and still the investment flows in

Gloucester is one of Englands most historic cities, and one of the most beautiful although there are areas in the City Centre where 1960s and 1970s shop fascias obscure dignified historic buildings which might leave a visitor pondering briefly on this before exploring further.

Elsewhere, such as in Gloucester Docks the beauty of this former commercial area is evident: There is space and light with history seeping out of every red-brick warehouse which once housed iron, tin, wool everything carried on ships up the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal to be traded on the quayside. Presiding over the city is the mighty Cathedral.

2000-years old Gloucester is being regenerated and as the regeneration started in the Docks six years ago, its not surprising this area stands out. Public sector funding has attracted more than 400 million of private sector investment and the regeneration effect is working up through the new Kimbrose Triangle and into the City Centre.

The trouble with regeneration is that it takes ages. Behind the scenes meetings and more meetings take place between the organisation driving the 10-year regeneration: The Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company and city and county councils, architects, local communities and businesses. Everyone must be consulted. Everyone has a view. Luckily for Gloucester, those driving the regeneration maintain focus on the bigger picture.

Local media helps. BBC Radio Gloucestershire and The Gloucester Citizen particularly have reported the issues, highlighting progress and keeping the project in the public eye.

Chris Oldershaw, chief executive of the GHURC and also of Marketing Gloucester, which works to boost the citys economy and drive tourism, is the force behind the project, but admits its been tough since Government cuts, most recently when it looked like assets within the city, owned by the soon-to-be-defunct South West Regional Development Agency, might be returned to central Government.

We were relieved when the assets were finally transferred to the city so we could continue, he said.

So whats happened across the city?

Over 500 million invested, including 400 from the private sector with a further 100 million in the pipeline

1000 jobs created

76,000 square metres of commercial/retail floorspace created, with major developments completed at Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet Centre and St Oswalds Park

Gloucestershire College opened a brand new Dockside Campus in 2007 according to Oldershaw: True pioneers in what was a wilderness of dereliction five years ago.

700 new homes built, at St Oswalds Park, along Canal Corridor and including conversions of the remaining redundant warehouses and new wharf side developments in The Docks.

Major public space projects completed, including stunning new public artworks in The Docks and Kimbrose Square.

Major Infrastructure developments built: The South West Bypass and the St Ann Way/High Orchard Bridge ease traffic flow.

At Kings Quarter, which includes the citys main bus station, national property developer Stanhope has been appointed to redevelop the area. The company, known for its heritage development, is currently drawing up concept plans.

At the Railway Triangle, developer LXB has agreed terms with owners Network Rail to redevelop this site. The project, estimated to be in excess of 30 million, includes a 71,000 sq ft Morrison supermarket, petrol station, access road from Metz Way, business park and leisure facilities. Local people campaigned for a new railway station that, on paper, seemed a sensible solution but after numerous investigations and debates, most now reluctantly accept the harsh reality that financially, the sums didnt add up.

A planning application is in to build homes at Greyfriars demolishing a now empty former college building to make way for the first new homes in the city for years.

A major initiative at Blackfriars, a 5 million Language Immersion Centre and world-class exemplar of learning, is due for completion in December this year. Next door, at the historic Blackfriars Priory, the North Range (previously closed to the public) has been refurbished and is now available as a conference or performance space for public hire.

Work continues at Gloucester Docks where new flats with retail below are being built at Merchants Quay. 18 flats have been sold off plan.

Demand for this development has held up particularly well, said Oldershaw.

Gloucesters biggest employer, Ecclesiastical Insurance, is working on concept designs for 100,000 square feet of prestigious new headquarters at The Docks Southgate Moorings site.

The regeneration work includes engagement with employers and individuals to improve employment and skills across the city.

We are in a very challenging period at the moment, said Oldershaw. Weve taken a few knocks during the toughest economic time who hasnt, but with many projects at an advanced stage, its evident that confidence is still here.

Regeneration should enhance the natural environment and Gloucesters Alney Island is a case in point. Sandwiched between Gloucester Prison and the A417 trunk road around the city, it is a nature reserve just a few minutes walk from the city centre.

After public sector cuts began to bite, the local community got involved. An 80-strong Friends of Alney Island Group has been established and will be working with postgraduate students from the University of Gloucestershire to draw up a masterplan for the site, which could include landform sculpture and will definitely create a green lung for the city.

Barry Leach, interim chair of the group and a member of the GHURC Board, said: Many regeneration objectives drive the economy and encourage tourism, but we see this as a place for local people as well as visitors to the city.

This partnership includes Young Gloucestershire, the countys leading voluntary youth work organisation. Before the end of this year a plan will have been drawn up and grants hopefully secured from the Environmental Trust and other funding bodies.

Next year the community aim to be on site, clearing and restoring the area bit by bit, said Barry.

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