Converse Law is a Cheltenham-based firm of business and property lawyers with national and international clients.
Founding partners, Imdaad Sulaiman and Richard Spencer, founded the firm in 2015 to offer businesses a genuinely different approach to legal services. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength and is now regarded as one of the most tenacious and energetic firms around.Its team advises businesses, builders, corporate occupiers, developers, landowners and investors on all aspects of their UK property needs.
When the pandemic struck in 2020, the construction sector UK-wide shrank by 14 per cent, but Gloucestershire has defied the odds and continued to show it is a place where developments happen and deals get done.
To champion the efforts of the incredible Gloucestershire firms that help make them happen, SoGlos has rounded up 16 of the most diverse, inspiring and award-winning projects from the county – including business, residential, public realm and educational developments.
This project saw a Gloucestershire building firm specialising in Gloucestershire projects take on the challenge of breathing new life into the derelict former Axiom Centre in Winchcombe Street, Cheltenham.
Originally built as a stables and once used by corn and feed merchants, it had become a live music and arts centre by the 1970s before closing in 2000 and falling into disrepair. Its £1.5m restoration by Cheltenham-based Cape Homes Limited took just 10 months to complete, creating 19 one and two-bedroom apartments and one retail unit – and on the eve of the pandemic, it won a Cheltenham Civic Award.
Work began at the start of 2022 to clear the ground in readiness for the £7 million family leisure park 270 Climbing at Bentham in Gloucestershire.
When complete the centre and sports activity park is expected to create an estimated 60 new jobs and facilities fit for everyone from families to Olympic athletes.
The ambitious scheme, within the county’s green belt, won planning approval in April 2021. The Gloucestershire team behind the project is headed up by David Stevens, who currently runs the Warehouse Climbing Centre in Gloucester.
Fittingly for a home named Windward House, this extraordinary home stands at one of the highest, most exposed points in Gloucestershire overlooking the Wye Valley.
Designed by London-based Alison Brooks Architects, the new-build art-filled house adds unique modern elements to a Georgian farmhouse. It has won awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects and RIBA’s South West Building of the Year 2021.
The unique challenge of the site for this project had scared off developers for years and left an eyesore in the centre of Gloucester. The sticking point for the small parcel of land on the edge of Gouda Way was the Grade II-listed 13th century remains of Tanners Hall, which needed to be preserved and included as part of any new building to win planning approval.
That challenge was eventually met with a project which produced 24 affordable flats for independent housing association, Gloucester City Homes.
Albion House on Southgate Street is another Gloucester plot that languished on the city council’s regeneration list for some time after becoming empty in 2015. SF Planning helped to secure planning permission and listed building consent in 2016 for the conversion, architecture was by Clive Petch Architects and building work by Cape Homes – all county firms.
This was a development that raised the bar for what could be done with Gloucester’s ‘difficult’ historical buildings, with a little imagination. Albion House became nine new apartments, with the site also accommodating seven new-build apartments and six houses, four of which were also new-builds, too.
Visitors to Eagle Tower in the centre of Cheltenham might have their eyes drawn to the soaring landmark on arrival, but the adjacent Montpellier House tower is far more than it appears – as the top floor is now a luxury penthouse.
Cheltenham firm RRA Architects did the design work, transforming the top two floors with full height glazing to maximise the panoramic views of the town, with expansive terraces to connect the indoor and outdoor space.
And Clarke Nicholls & Marcell, also based in Cheltenham, did the clever engineering work to make the ambitious design a reality. Knight Frank currently has one of the apartments on the market for £1.25 million.
Work began on the 88 new sustainable homes at Orchard Field near Cirencester in early 2021 with developer, Stonewood, managing a topping out ceremony at the end of the year, despite the challenges bought by Covid-19.
Each of the stylish, energy efficient homes comes fitted with up to 12 solar panels; 45-centimetre-thick walls filled with eco-friendly insulation; triple glazing; airtight interiors to eliminate draughts; energy-efficient mechanical ventilation; and a heat recovery system.
New housing developments need shops too, which means businesses need new premises to move into close by. The Twigworth Local Centre was built to serve county-based Robert Hitchins’ neighbouring residential development north of Gloucester.
Local bakery and café chain, Janes Pantry, proudly unveiled itself as the new tenant in 2021, declaring it was investing £300,000 to create its 11th Gloucestershire base with a 48-seater café – and up to 15 new jobs for the community.
In July 2021, project lead Cheltenham Borough Council unveiled its preferred development partner for the multi-million-pound scheme – a joint venture between UK property developer HBD and the international developer, Factory.
Predictions are the scheme will create up to 12,000 new jobs, 3,700 homes and two million square feet of commercial space for cyber-focused businesses – helping to cement Gloucestershire’s title as the cyber capital of the UK.
Originally a Regency villa, Cheltenham’s Overton House was converted into a care home in the 1950s before becoming student accommodation for North Star College. More recently Barnwood Trust saw its potential as its new headquarters.
Ferguson Mann Architects work with the Gloucestershire charity to create a new space for 32 staff – and even managed to accommodate a 50-seat seminar room, a 13-person lift and accessible entrances, too.
Cirencester College is very much part of Gloucestershire’s bid to become the cyber capital of the UK. Its GFirst LEP-backed new-build digital skills centre is set to help deliver the next generation of staff for the fast-growing cyber industry.
The college broke ground on the £4.48 million new-build in June 2021 with principal Jim Grant declaring the scheme will ‘transform the digital education’ the college is able to provide – with Gloucestershire architects Roberts Limbrick and building firm EG Carter helping to make it happen.
The team behind Rokeby Developments has been a major catalyst for the regeneration of Gloucester Docks and Quays. While Peel, owners of Gloucester Quays outlet centre, rightly gets recognition for its commitment to the waterside quarter, Rokeby Developments continues to drive forward with those difficult-to-develop historic former warehouse buildings.
It is currently working its way through Bakers Quay which, when complete, will include some stunning new residential and restaurant space, further adding to this dynamic area of Gloucester.
The ever-ambitious Hartpury College and Hartpury University has forged ahead with its plans for growth despite the challenges of the pandemic and in September 2021, it broke ground on its new £2 million Agritech centre.
In the same month it also started work on a new £5 million catering and conference venue for students, staff and businesses – with a £10 million innovation, careers and enterprise learning centre also pending.
Funds from GFirst LEP have helped make the projects possible, as well as Gloucester-headquartered architects Roberts Limbrick, main contractor Barnwood Group and Brockworth-based project lead, Vitruvius Management Services.
GFirst LEP played another important role in the Five Valleys Shopping Centre development, investing in a project which has seen new owners, Sheffield-based Dransfield, plough more than £12 million into the renovation of Stroud’s tired Merrywalks Shopping Centre.
What has emerged through the pandemic is a near brand-new shopping centre – now called Five Valleys – complete with a food hall of predominantly Gloucestershire independent businesses and a new and eclectic mix of shops.
Forest of Dean District Council’s ambitious £9 million project to transform the former Five Acres College site into new sports and leisure facilities, was part of last year’s successful bid for £20 million of Levelling-Up cash.
The council recently revealed it has also bought the site in Berry Hill from Homes England for a nominal £1, marking another win for the local authority which, under Tim Gwilliams’ leadership, has forged healthy alliances and a business-friendly approach which is paying dividends for the district.
While it’s not the only school that has been built in Gloucestershire in recent years, High School Leckhampton is perhaps the most high profile, after a planning process that engaged the community in earnest – and was steered over the finishing line by Cheltenham-based chartered surveyors and planning consultants, Evans Jones.
Building work got underway in early 2021 on the £30 million, 900-pupil capacity High School Leckhampton with the gates expected to open in September 2022.
For more information about Converse Law, visit Converselaw.com.
By Andrew Merrell
Tuesday 01 February 2022
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