A land deal and a new Growth Hub service for Cheltenham have been announced, marking a major step forward for a new business centre to boost the town’s economy.
On the day The Growth Hub network has revealed it is opening the virtual doors to a Cheltenham-focused on-line-only service, news has also broken of a land deal which paves the way for a physical premises later this year.
Its GFirst LEP-funded Growth Hub network has helped 6,000 businesses to grow since opening in 2014, but a Cheltenham branch delivering its potent formula of support has been lacking – until now.
It is expected that later this year that service will slide into place physically into a new premises called the Minster Exchange, and a land swap to make that possible is now complete.
Bruce Gregory, of Hub8 in Cheltenham and a director of Workshop Cheltenham (WSC), which is leading the project in partnership with the borough council, said: “The Minster Exchange is a unique urban rejuvenation scheme that will enable a variety of activities and initiatives that will deliver positive economic, cultural, societal and environmental impacts for Cheltenham and its community.
‘It will bring together high growth companies in the cyber tech, digital and creative sectors on the one part and academia and the wider community on the other to create the ideal platform for organic growth, collaboration and serendipity to occur in one place.’
It will also be a new home for Cheltenham Festivals to deliver its world-famous programme of events.
The aim of the Minster Exchange and all that will sit under its roof will also be ‘to help to re-invigorate the local economy, establish key linkages to the High street, support economic growth and act as a beacon in the town for the forthcoming Golden Valley Cyber development’.
It is all part of a narrative that includes the existing Hub8 workspace and meeting rooms, a melting pot and catalyst for all-things cyber, at the Brewery Quarter in the town’s High Street.
The land-swap deal – regarded at the first key phases of the scheme itself – saw Chester Walk, previously a GCC owned car park, exchanged with ‘a portion of St George’s Road car park’.
WSC is described as a group of local entrepreneurs who presented the original idea for the Minster Exchange to the council.
A jointly-crafted bid, backed by GFirst LEP, won a grant award of £3.5m from central Government’s Getting Building Fund. In total some £5.2 million is expected to be invested.
This funding will enable delivery of ‘an innovative modular construction building which will house state of the art workspace for the cyber tech, digital and creative sectors, a Growth Hub to support business development, an event space and café’.
Other work, subject to planning approval, will include improvements to the neighbouring open space surrounding the Cheltenham Minster.
Cheltenham Borough Council’s leader, Councillor Rowena Hay, said: ‘’Both councils have worked hard over the last year to secure the exchange of land to support Cheltenham’s place shaping vision and economic recovery plan.
‘We will see considerable enhancements to the environment and a new, vibrant quarter which will offer a significant boost to the economy.’’
Gloucestershire has six times the level of cyber businesses than anywhere else in the UK, with Cheltenham at the heart of this network. Minster Exchange is expected to become a key part of that ‘vital cyber ecosystem’.
It is anticipated that building work will begin on the Minster Exchange this summer.
To find out more visit thegrowthhub.biz/cheltenham.
By Andrew Merrell