GFirst LEP board makes funding decision on multi-million pound development

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 03 September 2020 6:53

GFirst LEP board makes funding decision on multi-million pound development

Before you start thinking this could be bad news for the much-mooted innovation centre pencilled-in for the centre of Cheltenham, think again.  

A decision by planning officers at Cheltenham Borough Council in August saw some quarters toast the project as a done deal. 

What many had not realised was that while the local enterprise partnership had secured some £3million-plus for the project from central Government to put towards the £5.2 million project, the final decision to invest the money had not been made.  

Hold your breath no longer, we can now confirm the board of GFirst LEP has met and made its decision.  

David OwenGFirst LEP’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted to announce that the GFirst LEP Board yesterday confirmed funding for this exciting project. The £3.114 million will deliver innovative co-working space right in the heart of Cheltenham.  

“It will also provide a purpose-built performance, event and community venue, and include Cheltenham’s very own Growth Hub. It will be a really important pilot for developments at the Cyber Central Campus.”

Anyone following developments in Gloucestershire in even only a relaxed fashion will be aware Cyber Central Campus refers to the enormously ambitious transformational project being driven by Cheltenham and Tewkesbury councils.  

The local authorities are working together to on the£400 million scheme to develop 200 hectares of land beside GCHQ in Cheltenham into a ‘garden community’ with the cyber park at its centre.  

To others this has become known as the Golden Valley Development, the focal point of activity for cyber security in the UK 

Back to the innovation centre, alias the Minster Innovation Exchange, when built it will provide 20,000 square feet of space in the shadow of the spa town’s oldest building, its Grade I listed St Mary’s Church.   

This too is a public-private partnership - between Cheltenham Borough Council, Gloucestershire County Council, GFirst LEP, Cheltenham Festivals, CyNam and Ecotricity among others.

Read more: Take part in our survey: Where now for Gloucestershire?

When plans were revealed it drew media attention at once for its clever modular design, a product of the clever people at Edge Design Workshop, the architects working on the project, which theymodestly call Workshop Cheltenham.  

Funding from the LEP “will allow a number of enhancements to be added which include improved thermal performance of the building fabric, additional renewable energy solutions as well as an upgrade on the digital infrastructure, heating and lighting installations”, according to Edge Design Workshop.   

“The project will be constructed almost entirely off site and craned into position within modular units,” said Jason Pritchard, of from the firm. 

“It will host and facilitate a variety of initiatives that will have a positive economic, educational, cultural, social and environmental impact on the town.”   

These include flexible and affordable co-working spaces, office studios and the aforementioned Growth Hub – which will provide business support centre for individuals, start-ups and SMEs, particularly those in the creative sector (including digital, tech and cyber).   

There will be “a state-of the-art performance venue and events space”, a dedicated Cyber Innovation Floor featuring cyber specific training rooms, a co-working accelerator and a ‘war room’ and a laboratory, education and community spaces and a café and bar.  

In all First LEP, successfully bid for £11.3 million of funding from central Government to kick-start the economy, winning the money from the £900million nationwide ‘Getting Building Fund’.  

The above scheme is one of five destined to create nearly 1,000 jobs county-wide.

Read more: Take part in our survey: Where now for Gloucestershire?