£6.8million Minster Exchange transformation gets firmly underway
Published on 13th January 2022
Work moves at pace as 46 bespoke modules arrive on site and construction of event space begins next month.
A vision to transform the space around Cheltenham Minster has now become reality, with the arrival of 46 bespoke modular units on site. The exciting step forward is a positive start to the new year, with the scheme acting as the centrepiece of the council’s post-Covid recovery strategy.
The Minster Exchange (MX) project will house 20,000 square feet of state of the art workspace, a home for The Growth Hub to support business development, a purpose built events space, café, community and education space.
The arrival of the bespoke modular units is the first step in the creation of a brand new cultural hub in the heart of the town. At this stage, the units are shell only and will be clad and finished to enhance the surrounding environment. Very soon, the timber for construction for the event space will also be arriving.
Councillor Rowena Hay, leader at Cheltenham Borough Council said: ‘’The significance of the MX scheme is such that it will bring together the library, the Wilson Art Gallery & Museum, a large performance space and a café culture. It will establish the area as the heart of the town once again. Improved lighting and footpaths will encourage better connectivity between the high street and promenade, reinventing and breathing life into a space that should be well used and enjoyed by residents, communities and businesses.
‘’It’s incredibly exciting to see the long awaited arrival of the modular units as it’s the first time we have really been able to see the plans turn into reality. As we work hard, together with our partners, to recover as a town from the pandemic, the delivery of the MX project is crucial, now and for future generations.’’
Bruce Gregory, director at WorkShop Cheltenham, the council’s development partner, said: “The MX will be transformational for the town, helping to reinstate the Minster Gardens and the surrounding area as a vibrant location for the community to visit and enjoy. It will be a platform for high growth companies in the cyber tech, digital and creative sectors and link with Hub8’s two other sites, located in The Brewery Quarter and Gloucestershire College’s Cheltenham Campus. It will be a shop window for the future vision of the town as we build momentum towards the launch of the Cyber Innovation Campus as part of the Golden Valley Development. The MX will also be the new home for Cheltenham Festivals and provide a year-round calendar of events to underpin the town’s thriving festival scene.”
The scheme has been designed with the environment in mind. The bespoke modular construction of the units has several sustainability benefits, including efficient production, reduced waste and effective energy control as they are manufactured in a factory setting, compared to an open construction site.
Also as part of the wider MX initiative, it is proposed that the closed churchyard of Cheltenham Minster - the town’s oldest building - will benefit from renovation and restoration works. Known as Minster Gardens plans for the space include new pathways, seating, lighting, planting and signage. The scheme, having been unanimously approved by the Local Planning Authority in December, is currently with the Diocese for consideration. The project team aims for designs to go on display for the public to see very soon.
It is hoped that completion of the MX scheme will be this summer, with similar timescales for the gardens, subject to approval.
The exciting developments come as new branding for the project is unveiled. The new look has been inspired by the use of binary code and the colour palette in the stained glass windows of the Minster Church, a subtle nod to the mix of contemporary and heritage in the space. The building itself will be known simply as the ‘MX’.
The £6.8million MX project is partly funded from a jointly crafted government funding bid for an enhanced scheme resulting in a grant award of £3.514m from central Government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’ and the Growth Hub via GFirst LEP, Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership.
European Regional Development Fund
The Minster Gardens project is receiving up to £229,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.