Gloucester launches ambitious £20 million city centre regeneration bid

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Public and private sectors have come together to launch Gloucester’s ambitious £20m City Centre Regeneration bid to the government’s Levelling Up Fund.

Gloucester MP Richard Graham, in signing off on the bid, said that the pandemic had been tough on small city centres. “The three projects earmarked for support will (if successful) transform perceptions of our city centre, by delivering, for the first time ever, higher education courses in Gloucester City Centre (from the University of Gloucestershire takeover of the ex Debenhams building), our first 4 star hotel (The Fleece) and a new digital innovation hub (The Forge).

Pioneering Gloucestershire uni to turn city’s former Debenhams building into campus

“The combination of 4,700 university students, a 60 bed boutique hotel and a cluster of cyber secure start ups will be good for jobs, education, growth and culture. And there will be widespread social benefits from a public Well Being Centre and a new library in the UoG building. Urban regeneration is about individual skills and health as much as restoring buildings,” he added.

Councillor Richard Cook, leader of Gloucester City Council, said: “The Levelling Up Fund is a huge opportunity for Gloucester and will help create a city that both brings alive the past and makes us fit for the future. By working together with different partners (Dowdeswell at the Fleece and Reef Group with The Forge) our bid is acting as a catalyst for private sector development alongside the public sector investment from the Uni of Gloucestershire.”

The former Debenham’s building will be the first in the country to be converted for academic use and will also become home to community use spaces. The University expects it to bring 4,700 students to the centre of Gloucester’s community.

Stephen Marston, Vice Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, added: “The development of the Debenhams building will place the University of Gloucestershire at the heart of its community, breathing new life into a much loved but dilapidated building, and creating a vibrant centre of new activity in the city centre. We are confident that it will serve as a role model for other city centres.

“Many of the university’s courses are crucial to the health, quality of life and economic success of our region, including Nursing and Education. Along with providing dual use public services for the community, our new city centre campus will provide facilities to train these professionals. The University is not just refurbishing a building, but creating a new talent flow that builds human as well as physical capital.”

“Working with partners, the University will make the Debenhams building the centre of a major regeneration programme, building a new future for an area that has been in long term decline.  Between us we will create a new destination offering a wide range of activities, events and attractions, which in turn will bring skills, wellbeing and growth for our community.  Over the lifetime of the project, we estimate that the Debenhams scheme alone will add more than £700 million of direct and indirect value to the economy.”

The Forge is a flexible digital hub aimed at organisations in the cyber and knowledge economy. It will help re-define Gloucester as the place to train, start or grow in the cybersecurity, aviation, and agri-tech sectors, bringing 205 new jobs to the City.

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Esther Croft, Development Director at Reef Group, said: “This fund has the potential to make a real difference by supporting the diverse range of projects that will combine to redefine Gloucester’s city centre as a vibrant, resilient and future-ready place, full of opportunity.”

The bid also supports the renovation of The Fleece Hotel – bring the historic hotel back into use with Gloucester’s first ever 4 star hotel for heritage tourism.

Rod Jenner, Managing Director of Dowdeswell Group, said: “We are delighted to be part of this consortium investing in Gloucester’s City Centre. The bid will help make the restoration of The Fleece Hotel viable as the flagship heritage restoration project in the City, with high quality hospitality and a stronger link to The Docks.”

Richard Graham added: “the three projects should bring 1,500 jobs into the City Centre and contribute over £105m pa. With a big thank you to all who have worked on this, it’s now my task to convince government this bid will indeed enable us to Build Back Better. Come on Glos!”

Gloucester is a Priority 1 local authority in the Levelling Up Fund. A full prospectus is available at: The Levelling Up Fund Bid is led by Gloucester City Council. The £20m bid is matched by £75.33m of private investment.

The move by the city follows the £20 million bid submitted by the Forest of Dean District Council, Hartpury University and Hartpury College and Cinderford Town Council earlier in the month.