Stroud isn’t living up to its ‘best place to live’ accolade, but it could with a bit of love and money

By Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director and GFirst LEP board member
Stroud Imperial Hotel

Just walking around Stroud town centre for an hour made me realise what great opportunities there are to transform it.

I have recently questioned whether the town was really living up to the accolade from the Sunday Times, in March this year, as the best place to live in Britain.

So, it was against the backdrop of Stroud District Council and the town’s regeneration committee looking at projects for a possible Levelling Up bid to government early next year that I decided to take a walkabout.

My guide, Andrew Watton, a consultant with property consultancy Hawkins Watton, is in my view, the most informed man on property in  Stroud and the Five Valleys having worked there for over 40 years.

We looked at the station area – the gateway to Stroud for people visiting and for many who regularly commute to London.

It is a disgrace.

The frustrating fact is that there have been several plans in place over the years but nothing has been achieved so far.

A London property developer, Simon Berg—attracted by the Sunday Times award—has bought the fading Imperial Hotel (pictured) opposite the station and intends to develop it. And already he tells me of inteest by two hotel groups wanting to run it. Simon hopes to have it open by next June.

Great news – A developer putting his money where his mouth is and investing in the town just like Dransfield Properties have done with the Five Valleys Shopping centre and now the adjacent Medical Centre.

Walk down from the departure side of the station and in the Station Yard area there is huge potential for development—perhaps up to three acres in all.

The old railway goods shed designed by Brunel is in this area and used by Stroud Arts Space.

But overall, everything looks like a bomb site.

Granted that there is a conservation notice on Brunel’s building, but why haven’t the council realised the tremendous commercial opportunities here before?

I echo what Malmesbury developer Tom Pitman says.

He has purchased Imperial House in the station forecourt area and intends turning it into small offices.

“Stroud it littered with lots of run down bits which needs sorting out”, he told me.

Out of the station, walk past Holloway House—a fantastic building which housed the first building society in the country. The founder George Holloway’s statue stands outside but looks unloved.

As we walked down the road opposite Holloway House the pavement railings were in a poor state.

But where else would you get a piper playing at midday?

The Holloway family had owned the amazing Hill Paul building on the arrival side of the station.It was the tallest factory building in Gloucestershire when built.

The land around this unique building is devoted to car parking, and is pretty dismal but has tremendous potential for development.

We finished the mini-tour by the canal near the Travis Perkins site.

This really could be Stroud’s Little Venice for canal boats. Here again, I understand there have been ideas to try and develop the canal basin area but nothing has transpired.

Walking back through the town—on pavements which were in bad repair, it struck me that there are so many opportunities to transform the centre of Stroud, and the time has now arrived for the district and town councils to work together to make it happen.