Cheltenham Borough Council and Gloucestershire County Council have successfully completed the first stage of the Minster Exchange development. This has involved completing a land swap at Chester Walk, previously a GCC owned car park, with a portion of St George’s Road car park, enabling this landmark project to get off the ground.
Cheltenham Borough Council has partnered with Workshop Cheltenham (WSC), a group of local entrepreneurs, who presented the original idea for the Minster Exchange to the council. A joint government funding bid for an enhanced scheme resulted in a grant award of £3.5 million from central Government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’ and the Growth Hub via GFirst LEP, Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership.
This funding will enable delivery of an innovative modular construction building which will house state of the art workspace for the cyber tech, digital and creative sectors, a Growth Hub to support business development, an event space and café. In addition, and subject to planning approval, the grant will fund improvements to the neighbouring open space surrounding the Cheltenham Minster, the town’s oldest building, adjacent to the Wilson art gallery and museum. Plans will include new pathways, seating, public art, lighting, planting and signage.
Cheltenham Borough Council’s leader, Councillor Rowena Hay, said: ‘’Both councils have worked hard over the last year to secure the exchange of land to support Cheltenham’s place shaping vision and economic recovery plan. We will see considerable enhancements to the environment and a new, vibrant quarter which will offer a significant boost to the economy.’’
Councillor Patrick Molyneux, cabinet member for education, economy and skills at Gloucestershire County Council added: “I’m pleased the county council can support this project aiming to improve skills and opportunities in Cheltenham, further proving our commitment to supporting the county’s economy and our shared vision for Gloucestershire as a ‘magnet county’.”
The Minster Exchange will be a new home for Cheltenham Festivals to deliver a programme of events throughout the year and a platform to support its education and outreach initiatives. The flagship scheme will bring to life an under-used urban space in Cheltenham’s conservation area.
Bruce Gregory, director of Workshop Cheltenham said: “The Minster Exchange is a unique urban rejuvenation scheme that will enable a variety of activities and initiatives that will deliver positive economic, cultural, societal and environmental impacts for Cheltenham and its community. It will bring together high growth companies in the cyber tech, digital and creative sectors on the one part and academia and the wider community on the other to create the ideal platform for organic growth, collaboration and serendipity to occur in one place.”
Richard Coombs, the Rector of Cheltenham Minster, added: ‘‘The Minster Exchange development is going to provide an exciting opportunity to open up and improve the Minster churchyard, providing a new social and cultural space in the heart of our town and a unique link between its ancient spiritual heart and this new commercial and artistic venture.’’
The cyber sector and industries that are focused on the commercial use of digital technologies are increasingly important and make a valuable economic contribution to the UK’s international competitiveness, offering a platform from which to develop solutions to some of the most pressing challenges affecting the world today. Here in Gloucestershire, we have 6 times the level of cyber businesses than anywhere else in the UK, with Cheltenham at the heart of this network. Minster Exchange, as part of this vital cyber ecosystem, supports CBC’s commitment to build on existing strengths, to develop and grow this sector, putting Cheltenham firmly on the map as the cyber centre of the UK.
It is anticipated that work will begin on site at the Minster Exchange and Gardens this summer.