Cheltenham Borough Council has announced an investment package supporting the high street and the Minster Exchange.
- £3.3m investment in High Street retail units to spark regeneration
- £2.5m investment in MX to ensure completion of the project
- Total investment package will help deliver the council’s vision to support the high street regeneration
The authority has purchased a collection of properties centred on Poundland and is also agreeing extra investment in the landmark MX project.
By investing in these two key sites, the council will support the long-term prosperity of the High Street and the town’s ambition to become the cyber capital of the UK.
Cllr Hay, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, said: ‘’Strategic investments with regeneration at its heart are vital to protect our local economy, generate income to protect council services and offer long-term assurance that Cheltenham continues to attract investment and punch above its weight. We need to continue to find ways to retain and attract more people to Cheltenham’s high street, including younger people who have a tendency to leave the town and move to other urban areas which are perceived to be more creative.
‘’With Cheltenham’s ambitions to become the cyber capital of the UK as part of the Golden Valley development, the arrival of the MX, creating a vibrant town centre quarter and our high street acquisitions, we are confident that the town’s economy will continue to grow, thrive and prosper.’’
The £3.3m purchase of 232-242 High St (Poundland), 254 High St and 8 St George’s Place, means that the council can realise its long-term ambitions to further invest in, enhance and offer creative and viable ways to re-imagine the high street with a mix of retail, leisure and living space.
The council’s continued investment in the high street is part of a wider regeneration plan to improve the town centre, support economic growth and employment opportunities. Recent examples include the significant refurbishment of the Wilson Art Gallery and Museum, the work to redevelop Minster Gardens and improvements to popular town centre spot, Clarence Fountain.
Cheltenham has welcomed many big brands to the town centre, including the Tivoli Cinema, Brewdog, Taco Bell and Flight Club, and with its Purple Flag accreditation, the town stands out as a safe and welcoming destination.
As part of this continued investment and confidence in the town centre, the council has also just confirmed an investment of £2.5m to support the completion of the Minster Exchange – known as MX. This will complement the external funding the project received from the national Build Back Better Fund.
The scheme is being designed and delivered by Workshop Cheltenham Ltd (WSC Ltd). It is set to transform the grounds of St Mary’s Minster, offering innovative workspace in the form of modular construction for the cyber tech, digital and creative sectors, a Growth Hub to support business development, an event space, and cafe.
WSC Ltd reported the scheme has experienced delays relating to procurement due to national supply chain issues from Covid and Brexit, national inflationary pressures, construction challenges and project delivery issues.
In view of the significant benefits that the scheme will bring to the high street, the council has acted quickly so MX can progress in a professional, structured and managed way. This will ensure value for the taxpayer while supporting a company at the centre of the local cyber industry. The project remains financially viable with a 25-year return on investment, a common rate of return in the construction industry. It will open in Spring/Summer 2023.
Bruce Gregory, managing director of WSC Ltd added: ‘’As the developer of the MX, and as a growing business in Cheltenham, this has been a challenging project due significant inflation, construction challenges and other issues. We’ve worked hard to mitigate many financial challenges and other pressures impacting on the project. The significance of the scheme in terms of the positive impact on Cheltenham High Street and wider economic benefits is such that the council has agreed to provide support to ensure the project can be future proofed and delivered.
“We know only too well the importance of the MX scheme in terms of its positive impact on Cheltenham High Street, and the town’s burgeoning cyber and technology community and so we are grateful to CBC for their intervention and their financial support to ensure this project will achieve the benefits for Cheltenham.”
The council’s high street regeneration project will feature in the council’s new corporate plan 2023-27 as a key priority (published in February 2023).