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Radical Blackfriars plan: We analyse what it really means for Gloucester

By citizenmike  |  Posted: April 11, 2014

By Mike Wilkinson, Public Affairs reporter

prison

Gloucester Prison site could be a 5-star hotel

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Radical plans were yesterday revealed for the Greater Blackfriars site.

For years vast swathes of city centre land has stood dormant. The closure of the HMP Gloucester prison site last year was the final nail in the coffin.

But now attentions are turning to redeveloping the whole area.

Gloucester MP Richard Graham used a speech in Parliament on Thursday to reveal a vision for a five-star hotel, 2,000 new homes, office space, a civic centre incorporating the city council and county council, and a justice centre combing the crown and magistrate courts.

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Mr Graham said: “This is a unique opportunity for a masterplan of regeneration. It would radically transform the impression of what Gloucester is all about.”

But how might the project work? And what do people think about the idea?

Public affairs reporter Mike Wilkinson explores the site.

FIVE-STAR HOTEL

With the 2015 Rugby World Cup heading to Gloucester and neighbouring cities such as Cardiff, the city is being marketed as a destination for thousands of tourists. But where will they all stay?

It will be impossible to build a five-star hotel before the World Cup in September next year but it does pose the question – do we have enough accommodation in the city?

Gloucester Prison has been touted as the place for a five-star hotel, perhaps similar to the exquisite boutique Malmaison hotel housed in the old Oxford gaol.

The site is on the market for between £1.5million and £3million and it is thought that a sale might be close. Property agents Jones Lang LaSalle’s Bristol office is handing the sale

Paul Baker, director at JLL's Bristol office, refused to be drawn on a possible buyer but did say he had been “encouraged by the interest”.

“We have extended the deadline for offers to April 30 to allow further information to be made available from the relevant local authorities that will provide more guidance to potential buyers on the future regeneration of the site,” said Mr Baker.

The prison site is steeped in history – King Henry III, together with Queen Eleanor and Prince Edward, lived there during his reign in the 13th Century.

From 1792 to 1939, a total of 123 prisoners were executed at Gloucester Prison, but not all are buried there it is believed.

However, some inmates who died within the prison but were not executed may also have been buried there.

CIVIC CENTRE

Local authorities have shrunk dramatically in recent years as public money evaporates and Gloucester City Council has been no different.

After a shrinking of the workforce, city council offices at North Warehouse have been turned into a business hub run by Regus.

But council leader Paul James admits there is scope to join forces with Gloucestershire County Council in a shared building.

He said: “I would like to see the 1970s Shire Hall extension removed from the skyline but it has to be done in a way that is cost neutral. The idea certainly presents challenges in that sense.

“Having said that we are happy to look at the idea of a shared building.”

NEW HOMES

Welcoming 2,000 new families to live in the city centre will be one of the biggest economic drivers for the city.

That’s the view of Barry Leach, chairman of the Gloucester City Centre Community Partnership. He said: “Getting people living in the city centre has always been a priority for us. That would drive the economy as much as anything else.

“At the moment Richard Graham’s vision is aspirational but it could all be possible and the housing could be a driver for developing the prison.

“The city centre would be the corner shop for these 2,000 extra families. They would spend their money there.”

Any housing development would follow in the footsteps of Linden Homes who are in the middle of creating the Greyfriars Quarter, which is a mixture of townhouses and apartments set around new community facilities such as a cafe-bar and a medical facility. That project will be completed in 18 months.

NEW OFFICE SPACE

The city centre is ‘desperate’ for new office space, Adrian Rowley, a partner at Alder King, commercial property experts has said.

Mr Rowley said: “The city centre is in desperate need of new Grade A office space and whilst there are a number of buildings that can offer this standard of space, supply of available stock is at a very low level.

“Generally demand for office space is improving. The total take up of office space in Gloucester increased to approximately 120,000 sq ft in 2013 up from 95,000 sq ft the previous year. The majority of the take up in recent years however has been in out of centre locations.

“Typical office occupier’s requirements have changed significantly over the last 10 years. In many instances these changes often make older or converted space unsuitable, irrespective of how competitive the occupational terms are. In these situations conversion from office to alternative use is a possible solution.

“Ensuring a supply of good quality office space is vital not only to attract new business to the city centre but also to retain its existing occupiers.”

JUSTICE CENTRE

With Gloucestershire Police pushing ahead with plans to develop a new station in Eastern Avenue, on the site of the former fire station, a huge 1970s building at the heart of the Blackfriars site will become vacant.

It presents a unique opportunity to remove an eyesore building from the Gloucester skyline – and replace it with a state-of-the-art justice centre, taking with it the adjacent magistrates court, which is equally oppressive.

The courts have long been said to be lacking the facilities that modern day versions enjoy.

A new justice centre could combine both the magistrate and crown courts.

Martin Surl, police and crime commissioner, said: “I am meeting Richard Graham on Monday to discuss a range of issues and no doubt this will be one of them.”

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5 comments

  • bdbear  |  April 15 2014, 10:46AM

    Why not put The University of Gloucestershire on all that space , as well as the space at the docks /quays . L

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  • Glos_Lad34  |  April 12 2014, 7:11PM

    Like i thought no museum, goes with hotel.

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  • jas37  |  April 11 2014, 9:43PM

    Quality large scale Office space is a must. A couple of thousand additional Office workers would give the City centre a huge boost.

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  • MikeMorrisOBE  |  April 11 2014, 6:31PM

    It looks as though they are trying to cobble something together quickly to prevent the site going the same way as Oxford's prison, which included a hotel and a museum. 2000 homes is an awful lot for the size of the plot, bearing in mind the inclusive proposal for a new Magistrate's etc. The real scary thing for me is that this is "Richard Graham's vision". He has been an airline manager, a diplomat and a pensions manager. Not quallified as an Architect or as a Town Planner, but then looking at most of the 70's buildings in Gloucester, he won't be the first to play at the job.

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  • JemmyWood  |  April 11 2014, 3:20PM

    I've asked it before and I'll ask it again.... how do they expect to fit 2000 houses onto that small area? Or is it just going to be another mass of unappealing blocks of flats that do not blend into the local architecture? rather than words from Dick Graham and his local mouthpiece Paul James.. how about providing some pictures of how they plan to do this.

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