Finally, after many years of waiting, it looks like Gloucester is getting somewhere with redeveloping the centre of the city. Gloucester City Council have now formally backed the scheme put forward by Stanhope PLC for a £60 million pound development for King’s Square and the Bus Station, known collectively as King’s Quarter.
I know, we’ve been here before, but I’m not sure that we’ve been this close. And according to today’s Citizen, Stanhope seem to be saying all of the right things: improve the night-time economy with quality and family restaurants, 40 new retailers with a big name ‘anchor’ store, 500 new jobs and two public squares.
It also has plans for a cinema, which I am less sure about given that a shiny new cinema is being planned for the Quays and I though fewer people went to the cinema these days. This seems to be one of the major things picked up on the TiG site and I tend to agree that a concert venue would be better, a complement to the Guildhall for larger events and performances.
I also share some concerns about the artist’s impression in the Citizen, the architecture shown doesn’t look too inspiring.
But minor niggles aside, the whole concept seems like a great boon for Gloucester. Getting some decent retail stores into the city centre and boosting the night-time economy will complement the wonderful history and create a true attraction for tourists (and their money) and put a stop to the mass exodus of shoppers to Cheltenham. It will also benefit the existing shops, cafes and pubs as more people flood into the city.
Looking at the timeline, my main concern is the line: “Throughout the remainder of the year extensive public consultation will take place to gauge public opinion”. Oh dear. The opinion of the Gloucester public seems to generally be cynical. You only have to read the TiG comments on a regular basis to despair at the capacity for locals to find inventive new way to slag off and undermine their own city and anyone who has the temerity to try to do anything to improve the situation.
You can be sure that they will point to the current situation and say “look at all of the empty shops – how do you expect to fill even more?” which of course clearly misses the point that you need a critical mass to make the city attractive and viable to potential retailers.
The other argument that came up when the Quays was being built is that “locals won’t be able to afford to shop in places like that” again entirely missing the point that what we want to do is attract wealthy people to spend money in the city and thus increase the overall wealth of the area.
But hopefully my cynicism about the cynicism of the locals will be unfounded and everyone will embrace the plans. Hopefully Stanhope know what they are doing and will provide us with a city centre to be proud of. And hopefully it will all be completed by December 2015 as per the plan.
I’m looking forward to it already.