A united voice of business and political leaders has called on the government to send £20 million of Levelling Up Fund cash Gloucester’s way to supercharge the transformation of the city.
The money is not to ensure the three transformation projects happen, it is to speed them along, with progress on the Fleece Hotel, King’s Quarter’s The Forum and arrival of the University of Gloucestershire in the former Debenhams building all but guaranteed already.
‘It feels like it is Gloucester’s time,’ said Rod Jenner, echoing the positive vibes, despite the rain, at a launch event in the entrance to the Debenhams former department store off Northgate Street.
Mr Jenner’s Cheltenham-based Dowdeswell Group is the developer looking to transform the historic former Fleece Hotel off Westgate Street – and has already helped the Outdoor Inn open a new bar in its grounds.
‘I always measure how busy things are in a city by the number of cranes in the sky and building projects going on. There is a lot going on here,’ he said.
‘It is giving people confidence they should come to Gloucester. It is not just about these projects, where they are complete it will transform the types of retail businesses you have here too.’
Addressing those who gathered for the launch – which included a song courtesy of Maisie Gaffney from The Music Works, Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester, said: ‘The combination of 4,700 university students, a 60-bed boutique hotel and a cluster of cyber secure start-ups will be good for jobs, education, growth and culture.
‘The three projects should bring 1,500 jobs into the city centre and contribute over £105 million per annum. It’s now my task to convince government this bid will indeed enable us to Build Back Better.’
Stephen Marston, the vice chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, said: ‘We already own the former Debenham’s building. We will move in anyway, but with the money – and this project would take at least £10 million of that total – we can make it happen not just quicker but better too.’
Esther Croft, of Reef Group, the firm leading The Forum development for the city council, said: ‘Things are already moving along significantly, the levelling up funds would just provide even more certainly and momentum.’
Richard Cooke, leader of the now overwhelmingly Conservative city council, said: ‘The university’s project will bring 4,700 students into Gloucester.
‘Jointly the projects will result in 6,000 more people coming into Gloucester on a daily basis.
‘If we get this money, it will be a shot in the arm of adrenaline for the city.’
By Andrew Merrell