FOR decades it has become an increasingly derelict area of Gloucester.
But now, a historic agreement has been signed between Gloucester City Council and Gloucestershire County Council to pave the way for a £20million regeneration of the Quayside and Blackfriars area of the city.
The two councils have agreed to work together to develop sites across the area, which forms a key part of the historic city centre.
They will jointly fund the development of a masterplan, including the Gloucester prison site, as well as the county council’s Quayside site, and the city council’s Barbican car park site.
Councillor Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said:“The continuing regeneration of Gloucester city centre is a key economic goal for the county as a whole.
“Unemployment may be falling – but that doesn’t mean we can be complacent about our work to promote this county’s economy.
“This deal will help us ensure that we get best use of this site, both in generating money for taxpayers, but also in helping to boost the local economy.”
Options for what could be included in the masterplan will be published in August 2015.
It is hoped that whoever buys Gloucester prison will also join the regeneration plan.
Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham outlined a vision for the prison site which includes homes, offices, a hotel, a courts complex and council offices last month.
Agents for the Ministry of Justice, which shut the 222-year-old institution, are currently reviewing bids and a major player in the redevelopment of Gloucester is understood to have submitted a bid.
Mr Graham said: “The Ministry of Justice has a £75million pot for investment of justice real estate that we could bid for because Gloucester’s courts are a mixed state.
“What we want to do times quite well with the MoJ investment plan.
“It is really good that the two council’s have agreed to work together on this area of Gloucester.”
Significant reductions in staff at the county council over the last two years has resulted in a reduction in the number of buildings the authority uses across the county.
Staff at Quayside House will shortly be relocating to Shire Hall.
Cllr Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, added: “The Blackfriars area is a significant piece of city centre real estate which has enormous potential to enhance the city’s economy.
“Almost all of the land in the area is in public ownership, which gives us a head start.”
The news has been welcomed by Gloucester’s Civic Trust, which says the area needs a breath of new life.
Hugh Worsnip, of the trust, said: “Thank goodness something is happening. This is an area of Gloucester which has been growing increasingly derelict for far too long.
“We welcome the agreement between the two authorities to develop their land, which is considerable in the area. We hope the plan would include replacing the Quayside Wing and the crown court and magistrates’ court, which are not in a good condition.”