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Divided opinion over huge development in North Place and Portland Street in Cheltenham

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

By MICHAEL PURTON & JOE LANE

  • FUTURE VISION: An artist's impression of the North Place and Portland Street project

  • FUTURE VISION: An artist's impression of the North Place and Portland Street project

  • FUTURE VISION: An artist's impression of the North Place and Portland Street project

  • Malcolm Stennett

  • Les Godwin

Comments (12)

THESE images show how a multi-million pound regeneration scheme will transform Cheltenham.

Borough councillors have 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 new homes each with their own parking space.

However, opinion remains divided over the development.

Some people have praised the regeneration scheme for the new jobs and boost to the local economy it will create.

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But others say the scheme will cause a traffic nightmare, kill off nearby small shops, and ruin the conservation area it is at the heart of.

Members of the planning committee voted 13 to two in favour of the development in front of a packed public gallery.

Councillor Andrew McKinlay (LD, Up Hatherley) led the charge to approve the plans, saying: "This is probably the single most important planning development in the centre of Cheltenham since the Second World War.

"I actually think this is a very good scheme. I think it does a very good job of balancing the conflicting needs of the housing, the parking and the supermarket."

It was said during the meeting that the supermarket was expected to be a Morrisons, but a spokesman for the company yesterday refused to confirm this.

Voting against the scheme, along with fellow Prestbury and PAB councillor Malcolm Stennett, Les Godwin raised concerns over the car park.

He later said: "The multi-storey car park will harm rather than enhance the conservation area. I believe the presence of such a large store in this area will have an adverse effect on the other shops."

Mr Godwin said that anybody who believed the development would not dramatically increase the amount of traffic in the area was "living in cloud cuckoo land".

However, a Gloucestershire Highways representative at the meeting told councillors he did not expect the scheme to hugely impact the town's traffic levels.

Nick Laing, who has spearheaded a residents' campaign against the development, voiced his opposition at the committee meeting.

He told councillors 800 people had signed a petition against the plans, and that he had written to the Secretary of State asking for the decision on the scheme to be called in.

However, planning officer Martin Chandler told councillors the Secretary of State's office had contacted him to say they would probably not call in the scheme.

Clarence Square resident Bruce Buchanan said he was "bitterly disappointed" with the council's decision because he expected the development to cause a huge traffic increase.

But Michael Ratcliffe, chairman of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, said the scheme would breathe new life into the town centre, adding: "It's a way of regenerating that land and it will bring new jobs with it."

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12 comments

  • TIMONLINE2010  |  February 24 2013, 6:55PM

    This beggars belief! Just how many retail outlets remain vacant and yet they plan to create more?! I's like to see the justification for this decision which has been made contrary to democratic procedures. I wonder whether any of the jobs that may be created will pay more than the minimum wage?!

    |   4
  • EllJay1  |  February 24 2013, 3:56PM

    Some indication of how pedestrians are supposed to cross St Margaret's Road to and from this development without helping to cause even more traffic congestion than at present would be really useful.

    |   1
  • amy86  |  February 24 2013, 2:17PM

    Following other comments, we really dont need ANOTHER supermarket here! Within perhaps a 2 mile radius of North Place, I can think off the top of my head of at least 5 supermarkets (3 different chains) with another planned for the top of the high street, and not to mention any newsagents/independent stores. 3 of these are no more than a 10 minute walk from here. Why not use the facility for something Cheltenham is seriously lacking, like another entertainment facility. Having something close to the Brewery would provide good competition and also mean a number of facilities are within walking distance of each other which would be good for users. How about an arts centre, or bowling centre or something of the like?

    |   7
  • tykelip  |  February 23 2013, 9:07PM

    Yet another artist's impression that doesn't show the U-turn.

  • tishwash  |  February 23 2013, 4:12PM

    800 signatures? where ? "facebook likes" don't count!

    |   -4
  • Abby-7  |  February 23 2013, 3:53PM

    The planning committee are an embarrassment and a disgrace, 'training'? they need sacking!

    |   5
  • Squirrel5678  |  February 23 2013, 3:10PM

    "Supermarkets have grabbed share from up and down the high street. We spend 58p in every retail pound in them today". Fact: http://tinyurl.com/apwonjm How can yet another supermarket be a good thing for Cheltenham's high street? Will shoppers really then bother to walk to the High Street after they've done their supermarket shopping? Will they need to? And that's before you consider the problems this development will cause to traffic congestion (did they close St Margaret's Road - Cheltenham's ring road - for the artist's impression???), pedestrian safety, further parking problems for residents...

    |   6
  • Quasi2010  |  February 23 2013, 11:45AM

    Can the council really think of nothing more imaginative than allowing yet another supermarket and more restaurants? Cheltenham has to be one of the best served towns for supermarkets I know of and as for more restaurants, how many more over priced chain restaurants do we need? Times are hard, going out and spending money on overpriced ready meals (lets be honest that's what most of these chain restaurants serve up) is off most peoples agenda. As for more housing, great, but lets not have anymore of those horrible square, featureless blocks of flats that have begun to dominate every spare piece of land in town. People have called this sight an eyesore, but to be honest, at the moment it is serving a far more useful purpose as a car park than most of the ideas put forward.

    |   11
  • Matt1006  |  February 23 2013, 11:40AM

    Is there really a requirement for an extra supermarket in the town centre? I don't think there is now, and don't think there will be when the 143 new homes within this now-approved scheme are built & occupied. So why has the scheme been approved with a supermarket that is not needed? It now remains to be seen which operator takes on the supermarket. If he developers can find one. Won't (shouldn't) be Tesco or Sainsburys, unless they then close their existing town centre store. Wouldn't it be ironic if the supermarket space remains vacant once the development is complete? Probably won't happen, but I'm curious to see which retailer will take it on. And another restaurant? With a number a stones-throw away in The Brewery. Again, will be interesting to see what this extra restaurant turns out to be, assuming anybody can be found to take the space on. I agree that the area needs work, but do wonder if the chosen intended occupants for the retail units have been properly thought through. Time will tell, I guess. Now we wait for works to commence. And hopefully we'll see some good clear signage directing motorists to other car parks, once the existing car parks is taken out of action whist the redevelopment happens...

    |   9
  • Jimmy69  |  February 23 2013, 10:20AM

    Yes this area is an eyesore and development would be good for jobs etc..BUT, there are many problems with it. - Traffic on that road is a real problem now. Add in the 143 houses, the supermarket and you have total gridlock. The traffic problem needs to be fixed first. - So the 143 houses will have a parking space each. How many cars will there actually be with each house? My guess is at least 2. Where are the extra cars going to park? The answer is other residents streets nearby where a parking permit is not needed after 5pm, such as mine, causing the parking problem in the area to get worse. - We don't need another supermarket. We definitely don't want or need another one in the town centre. We already have a Waitrose, the big Tesco and a small Tesco in town and several others further out. Do something else that ADDS to the town. Somewhere for people to go and DO something, rather than just spend money on groceries. I still want a bowling alley in the town centre, myself and many others would go there regularly if we could walk to it. Anything but another supermarket...

    |   17

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