Minster Gardens regeneration in Cheltenham moves closer

Minster Gardens Artist impression

Designs for the regeneration of the closed churchyard of St Mary’s Minster are to be made public from 21 March at the Minster for two weeks.  The showcase can also be seen online at cheltenham.gov.uk/minster-gardens.

The scheme introduces new paths and seating areas so that everyone can enjoy the grounds of the Grade I Listed Minster, Cheltenham’s oldest and only surviving medieval building.  Designed by Cheltenham-based Ares Landscape Architects, the plans have been approved by the Diocese of Gloucester, the council’s planning team and supported by Historic England and Cheltenham’s Civic Society.

Known as the Minster Gardens, the project is receiving up to £229,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund and will benefit from significant biodiversity and habitat improvements.  The aim of the extensive planting scheme is to boost existing habitats and increase wildlife and biodiversity, whilst conserving the rich history of this site within the town’s conservation area.

The council has worked with a number of partner organisations to raise funds to deliver this significant regeneration project in the grounds of the stunning Minster. Gloucestershire County Council is assisting the scheme by funding upgrades to existing paths and lighting for which they are responsible, including the restoration of the five Grade II Listed Dragon and Onion Lamp posts situated within the churchyard.

Councillor Rowena Hay, leader at Cheltenham Borough Council said: “We’re delighted, together with our partners, to have reached the stage where we can showcase the designs to the public. The transformed gardens, together with the wider Minster Exchange transformation, will create a new, vibrant and creative quarter in Cheltenham for all to enjoy.”

David Ball, Chair of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, added: “This is a real milestone for Cheltenham. The churchyard surrounding the medieval Minster has been the focus for an improvement for many years. Now, with the rare ability to draw down grants from a range of funding agencies, we have the unique opportunity for the DAC to recommend approval to this imaginative and well-designed project. It will result in a people-friendly and safe open space at the heart of Cheltenham, that will greatly improve the setting of the Minster, and with the adjacent MX building, help embrace Cheltenham’s future skills.”

Cllr Vernon Smith, cabinet member for highways and flooding at Gloucestershire County Council said: “I welcome these plans to regenerate an area of Cheltenham’s historic Minster, the designs promise a fantastic public space for residents of the town. I would urge members of the public to view these exciting plans to bring the Minster’s churchyard back to life.”

The scheme, which supports the overall Minster Exchange project (part funded through GFirst LEP) will start on site this spring and will be completed ahead of the opening of the adjacent MX building.

To facilitate community involvement and a sense of ownership of the newly refurbished gardens, Cheltenham Civic Society will help to establish a voluntary group.  This group will help look after the space to ensure the area’s new vitality remains for years to come.  More information will be available on this initiative soon.