As part of a £6.8 million flagship scheme, plans have been submitted for the regeneration of the closed churchyard of Cheltenham Minster previously The Parish Church, St Mary’s. The area, located behind Cheltenham’s main high street, will then be known as Minster Gardens.
The proposed investment will transform the historic and cultural core of the town centre. Current public perceptions are that the space is a dark and unwelcoming area that suffers from antisocial behaviour, with the council’s aim being to create a vibrant, yet reflective atmosphere for the public and parishioners to enjoy spending time in, whilst restoring significant pieces of our cultural heritage and improving habitat for biodiversity.
The Minster Garden plans have also, with the support of the parochial church council (PCC), been submitted to the Diocese of Gloucester for approval.
The plans include creation of more social space, improving the access paths and lighting around the gardens, and adding a range of seating to help improve passive surveillance that naturally occurs as more people visit and dwell. Also included is a proposed additional path with a seating area that will link to the entrance of the new Minster Exchange (MX) building, being constructed next to the gardens behind the Children’s Library. Further details are also included with plans to undertake urgent conservation works on a number of the historically significant memorials.
To complement the soft landscaping of new shrubs and plants, the designs look at raising the crowns of the trees to let in more light, encouraging the public to come and spend time in the biodiverse and habitat rich area.
Two planning notices will be available to view in the churchyard as both the parochial church council and the borough council have to apply separately for approval. Plans will be available on the Cheltenham Borough Council planning website from Thursday 9 September.
Cllr Rowena Hay, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council said: “The Minster Gardens plan is another exciting step in the Minster Exchange transformation. The plans have been designed to provide a haven in the heart of the town’s conservation area, complementing St Mary’s church and the surrounding area. We’d encourage the community to look at the plans which will create a new, vibrant and creative quarter in Cheltenham for all to enjoy.’’
Reverend Clare Dyson Associate Vicar for The Minster with St Matthew’s said: ‘’The congregation and PCC are delighted to know that the grounds around this much loved church are to be enhanced and improved, helping to shake off the negative impression residents currently have of the area. Along with the new MX building and increased footfall this will create, we hope that the Minster will become a Missional Hub for our town. The Minster and it’s churchyard offer a tranquil space in the middle of our town for people to find peace and refreshment.’’
Designs detailing future aspirations for the Minster Gardens have also been submitted as part of the planning application with the aim to implement them once more funding becomes available.
A decision from both Cheltenham Borough Council planning and the Diocese is expected in November 2021. If the planning application is successful, work is expected to commence on site early January 2022 with a view to a late Spring opening.