Mixed Use Development Cheltenham Town Centre
Client: Leckhampton Estates
In May 2013 SF Planning Limited submitted a planning application to provide 12 retail units, 39 townhouses and 56 apartments on a 0.6 hectare site positioned between the inner and outer ring roads in Cheltenham Town Centre. It included the demolition of the town’s former Odeon cinema and the redevelopment of the former Vauxhall Haines and Strange dealership.
It is an important site for the town that had stood derelict for some 7 years following the closure of the cinema (as a result of Cineworld constructing a new cinema elsewhere in the town centre), and the relocation of the Vauxhall dealership. The site also included a number of occupied retail units, with important frontages onto Winchcombe Street, Albion Street, Gloucester Place and Fairview Road.
There were a vast array of complexities to resolve:
- Overcoming a recommendation of refusal from the Council’s Conservation Officer for the demolition of a locally indexed building, not necessarily because it was an interesting architectural building (it was an ordinary 1930s cinema building) but because of its cultural background.
- Part of the site had been purchased at the height of the market, and viability was an issue.
- The size of the site and its varied context meant that scale and architecture were difficult to resolve.
- The engagement with the public was complicated with action groups set up to ‘Save the Odeon’.
Notwithstanding all of the above, SF Planning secured a resolution to grant planning permission (and conservation area consent for demolition) from the Council’s Planning Committee by July 2013, just two months after submission of a highly complicated Planning Application and application for Conservation Area Consent. This impressive turnaround followed on from successful pre-application discussions, significant public engagement and creative solutions to many obstacles arising.
With regard to viability SF Planning provided relevant case law, made a convincing case on the importance of the site to the town centre generally, and were ultimately successful in securing agreement from the Local Planning Authority to accept the purchase price to determine viability (with regard to S106 contributions and affordable housing) as opposed to market price.
Simon Bullingham, Leckhampton Estates