The Minster Exchange and Gardens project FAQs
What is the Minster Exchange?
The Minster Exchange (MX) is an innovative modular construction building that will house state of the art workspace for the cyber tech, and creative digital sectors, a Growth Hub to support business development, an event space and a café.
The Minster Exchange forms part of a wider network of digital tech venues in and around Cheltenham, including Hub8 in the Brewery Quarter and Gloucestershire College, and will act as a beacon in the town for the forthcoming Golden Valley Cyber development and Cyber Central.
The Minster Exchange will also be a new home for Cheltenham Festivals to deliver a programme of events through the year and a platform to support its education and outreach initiatives, with a 300-seat, sound-proofed auditorium.
Who is behind the project?
The Minster Exchange is a pioneering joint venture between the public and private sector.
We have partnered with Workshop Cheltenham (WCS), a group of local entrepreneurs, who presented the original idea for the Minster Exchange to the council. Together, they have formed a limited liability partnership to deliver the project and future business.
How is it funded?
The project been awarded a government grant of £3.5m from central Government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’ and the Growth Hub via GFirst LEP, Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership. Additional funding of £1.9million from Cheltenham Borough Council and smaller amounts from European Regional Development Fund and Cheltenham’s Public Art Panel make up the rest of the funding.
Why Cyber tech?
The cyber sector and industries that are focused on the commercial use of digital technologies are increasingly important and make a valuable economic contribution to the UK’s international competitiveness, offering a platform from which to develop solutions to some of the most pressing challenges affecting the world today.
Here in Gloucestershire, we already have 6 times the level of cyber businesses than anywhere else in the UK, with Cheltenham at the heart of this network with the highest concentration of cyber tech business outside London.
The vision for Cyber Central is shared by a powerful partnership including Cheltenham Borough Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Homes England, GFirst LEP and CyNam.
Why the name, ‘Minster Exchange’?
The name reflects the deep history of the surrounding site. Dating from the mid-11th Century, St Mary’s was officially designated Cheltenham Minster in 2013 in recognition of its historical significance and place in the community.
Within the grounds of this only surviving medieval building in the heart of Cheltenham, can be found iron fixings that were used by market traders to set up shopfronts for their businesses, indicating its historic connection with trade and commerce. This exchange of goods and ideas is timeless and integral to a sense of community and the new building will enable people to come together in an exchange of ideas, creativity and culture, to spark conversation and innovation.
What is happening in the surrounding area?
The Minster Exchange will face, and open out onto, the Minster churchyard.
In addition, and subject to planning approval, the grant awarded for the Minster Exchange will fund improvements to the neighbouring open space surrounding the Minster, adjacent to the Wilson art gallery and museum. Plans will include new pathways, seating, public art, lighting, planting and signage, opening up the Minster Gardens and links to the High Street.
The project builds on, and incorporates, the design work output created from the original alleyways project, to which many local groups contributed.
The aim of the planting scheme is to boost existing habitats and thus increase wildlife and biodiversity, whilst conserving the history of the site.
How will this benefit the area?
The Minster Exchange is a unique urban rejuvenation scheme that will breathe new life into an historical conservation area with improved lighting and CCTV, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable space for everyone. The upgrade of the gardens, its paths and high street links will improve access to all and the proposed planting scheme and new seating will create areas for reflection and space for community activities in the grounds of the Minster.
How will it impact me?
To minimise disruption, the Minster Exchange has been designed as a modular building which will be constructed and delivered to site ready for assembly. St George’s Place will need to be closed for a period of time for the delivery of these modules and the details of road closures will be notified nearer the time.
Whilst work is being carried out on the churchyard, the Minster Gardens will have limited access. We will share more information as the project progresses.
How will it affect my business?
The Minster regeneration scheme will improve access and invigorate the area, creating spaces that people want to pass through and spend time in. This will bring increased numbers of people to the area, enhancing local businesses and the community as a whole.
When is work due to start?
Work to the Minster Exchange and Gardens is expected to commence later this year and be completed Spring 2022.
How is the council considering the potential impact on rough sleepers in the area?
We are aware that difficulties and problems in people’s lives can result in homelessness. We are committed to ensuring, through working with the charity P3, that anyone rough sleeping in the Minster grounds is made aware of the closure well in advance and that support is made available to them if needed.
What is happening with the existing trees?
The Minster churchyard has a number of mature lime trees and we are planning to raise the crowns of many of these trees to allow more light into the site and encourage ‘natural surveillance’ from the surrounding buildings, opening up the views across this beautiful area.
We are also proposing to remove two trees due to their condition. In their place, we are proposing to plant two new, large trees to diversify the species on site and to provide better resilience to climate change.
How is the historical significance of the churchyard being considered?
The ancient parish of St Mary dates from the 12th century and was the sole Church of England church in Cheltenham until the 1820s.The churchyard, although closed now for burials, is the resting place for many of our local residents. We have sought professional archaeological advice to ensure our proposed plans have minimal impact to the grounds, paying particular attention to a ‘no-dig’ policy or minimal foundations where necessary. Should our plans be approved, we will be working closely with the Diocese and archaeological experts to ensure that the work is respectfully carried out and any historical artefacts recorded in accordance with this advice.
Who was involved in developing the designs for the Minster Gardens?
We engaged a local landscape architecture team to develop the designs and have received input from the Diocese and Cheltenham Minster and St Mathews Church. We have also engaged with local community groups, residents and businesses in the surrounding area.