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Approving North Place plans "a missed opportunity" - councillor

By EchoJoe  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

Malcolm Stennett

Comments (6)

Councillors who opposed plans for a massive regeneration scheme in Cheltenham say it was a "missed opportunity" for the town.

This week members of the borough council's planning committee approved plans to turn car parks at North Place and Portland Street into a supermarket, shops, restaurant and multi-storey car park as well as 143 homes.

The decision effectively marked the end of more than a decade of debate over the future of the site.

It was not without controversy however.

Councillor Malcolm Stennett (PAB, Prestbury) was one of planning committee members to vote against the proposals.

He later told the Echo: "Approving plans for a multi-storey carpark on such an important piece of land in Cheltenham's central conservation area was, in my view, a missed opportunity.

"It's right in the centre of town. If the parking had been underground much more could have been done with the site, and we could have had something the town could be really proud of."

He went on to criticise the council for what he said was a short-sighted approach.

"Unfortunately I don't think the council is imaginative enough to think what things will look like in five or ten years' time," he added.

"It seems to be about making a quick buck today and just get on with it. But I think it's a shame for the town and I'm glad I didn't put my name to it."

Councillor Les Godwin (PAB, Prestbury) said he had received several calls from residents in St Paul's who were disappointed at the outcome of Thursday night's meeting.

"I'm very sad for the people living next to the site," he said.

"I can't for the life of me understand how in a conservation area we can't think of anything better to put there than a supermarket and a multi-storey car park."

However in other quarters the move to approve the plans was welcomed.

Councillor Andrew McKinlay (LD, Up Hatherley) described it as "very good", arguing that it was "probably the single most important planning development in the centre of Cheltenham since the Second World War."

And Michael Ratcliffe, chairman of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, said the scheme would breathe new life into the town centre.

"It will be good for the town," he said. "That site has been waiting for development for more than 20 years and it's time to get on with it.

"It's a way of regenerating that land and it will bring new jobs with it. I'm led to believe it will look more attractive than some people perhaps think too."

What do you think? Post your comments below.

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  • Matt1006  |  February 25 2013, 9:05PM

    Whilst I wouldn't want to see a large unit sitting empty, it would be poetic justice if no retailer can be found to occupy the supermarket space once this development is complete. Likewise for the restaurant space also included within the approved scheme - more than one has opened and closed again in short order across the road in The Brewery. Originally there was going to be a hotel within this redevelopment, but that quickly got dropped, possibly because plenty of people said there was no need for ANOTHER hotel in that part of town. There is no need for ANOTHER supermarket either, but they've gone ahead and approved it. Worst case scenario is that the retail part of this development proves to be a flop, and the area then quickly becomes forgotten with no traders and therefore no customers. Probably won't happen, but CBC will be culpable if it does. What CBC should have focussed on before this development was the extension to The Brewery, linking it through to the High Street. That should have happened with the original Brewery scheme, but now we wait to see how long both the North Place and Brewery Phase II take to come to fruition. And then take to be fully occupied with tenants.

  • RichyB  |  February 25 2013, 10:36AM

    I thought one of the main parameters for this development was that it should also act as a 'conduit to guide people from the town centre to Pittville Park'. If so, I can't really seen how this has been achieved - a complete waste of an opportunity to do something different!

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  • TIMONLINE2010  |  February 24 2013, 6:50PM

    I wonder how much money has passed hands in order to let whichever retailer it is build a supermarket on the cheap in order to make maximum profits?!

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  • Logical1  |  February 24 2013, 1:36PM

    What a missed opportunity and how uninspired the planners are. Cheltenham must be one of the only large towns in the country not to provide a central, easily accessible for all, leisure centre. Where is our bowling alley and where is our skating rink? More homes being built, more people living in the area, yet nothing for families. Yes, more jobs need to be created but these could just as well come from the leisure industry instead of the retail sector. A superb facility catering for all ages would bring visitors to the town.....yet another supermarket will not!

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  • raidermanuk  |  February 23 2013, 11:15PM

    "probably the single most important planning development in the centre of Cheltenham since the Second World War." And then they approve this! Such a sad little architectural effort where the primary drivers were "how much can we pack in" and "all building to be Legoland style to minimise construction costs" Look forward to seeing it in future editions of "Cheltenham Betrayed" (probably demolished before the 2025 print run).

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  • Squirrel5678  |  February 23 2013, 3:03PM

    At least we have 2 Councillors (Les Godwin and Malcolm Stennett) who listened to residents' concerns about this terrible development. If this is "probably the single most important planning development in the centre of Cheltenham since the Second World War.", is a supermarket really as good as it gets?

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