Cheltenham Borough Council has revealed new plans for the Boots Corner area of Cheltenham town centre, this Friday 10 December 2021.
The Clarence Fountain project, as it’s been named by the council, will see permanent improvements to the plinth of the Clarence Fountain itself and the creation of a ‘pocket park’ with a family-friendly, accessible seating area.
The fountain itself and much of the original plinth will remain untouched, as the council aims to avoid intrusive works as much as possible. The improved area around the fountain is designed to be family-friendly as well as accessible and is set to feature a recess in the plinth of the fountain, to allow buggies and wheelchairs to sit within the seating area.
The area will also have new trees and shrubs planted to provide shade and shelter from the busy high street, as well as increasing biodiversity and improving air quality in the town centre.
The project is being funded by Cheltenham Borough Council with work expected to begin in February 2022. The area will be closed to pedestrians for around six weeks during construction and is due to be completed and open to the public in April 2022 – with the area reaching its full potential once the trees and shrubs planted have reached maturity.
The current cycle parking area next to Starbucks will also be temporarily relocated during the planned works, to allow space for buses and pedestrians. It will be placed further down the Promenade – if plans are approved by Gloucestershire County Council – before returning to its original location when works are complete.
The area has been described as ‘small but complex’, with high footfall and a number of buried utilities underneath the fountain, with timescales and plans subject to change depending on the needs on-site.
Two local firms, award-winning Cheltenham-based design consultancy, Ares Landscape Architects Ltd and Cotswold Estates and Gardens Ltd, are the proposed contractors.
The council is also aiming to use construction materials sourced as locally and sustainably as possible, recycling existing materials where it can, and using FSC-approved sustainable timber; steel sourced from a local fabricator; UK-sourced concrete and resin-bound gravel. The materials have been chosen for their sustainability and durability, as well as aesthetics.
Cheltenham Borough Council hopes the improvements will encourage more people to use the town centre and travel on foot, in line with its vision for sustainable travel in Cheltenham.
Councillor Max Wilkinson, cabinet member for climate emergency, explained that Cheltenham Town Centre is faring well in terms of occupancy and footfall compared to other towns across the UK, but reinforced the council’s commitment to the town, saying it wouldn’t be ‘resting on our laurels’ and would be ‘supporting businesses in our town centre to keep our town thriving’ – with the improvements and new seating area seen as key to this support.
Wilkinson said: ‘This new pocket park will make a massive difference to the town centre making the area greener and more attractive, with places for people to sit.
‘We’ve listened to what people have said about the artificial grass. It was only ever a
temporary thing and I’m pleased that we can now replace it with something better for the
environment and create a space that’s inclusive for wheelchair users too.
‘This is an important step as we focus on continued town centre regeneration – especially
following the difficulties that the pandemic has brought. We remain committed to ensuring that Cheltenham punches above its weight and continues to attract investment – even though we are doing well compared to a lot of other places, we know there’s a lot more work to be done.’
Chair of Cheltenham BID, Alex Rose, added: ‘The temporary solution has been a good trial and whilst not perfect, has provided an invaluable opportunity to gain feedback which has clearly helped to inform these new plans.
‘What will now be delivered will not only create a focal point for shoppers, but will also
enhance the area for the surrounding businesses.
‘Boots Corner/Clarence Fountain has always had an element of controversy about how best to make it user friendly for everyone. It’s great to see the council responding so proactively and investing in Cheltenham with a great design for Clarence Fountain.’
Part of Cheltenham’s recovery funding has been put into the Clarence Fountain project, as well as into the Cheltenham ice rink, which opened this November 2021 – with wider investment going into projects such as the Minster Innovation Exchange and The Wilson, which is due to reopen in Spring 2022 after a significant refurbishment.