Council and police investigating benefits of joint development in Cirencester
Release date: 1 August 2018
Officers from Cotswold District Council are engaged in exploratory discussions with Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) representatives regarding the possible benefits of a joint development within the centre of Cirencester.
The Police completed the purchase of the Magistrates Courts building in the town on 7 September 2017 and now own a sizeable site, which incorporates their current station. The Council owns the adjacent Forum car park and has entered into a formal agreement with the PCC to explore whether there is merit in the joint promotion of their property interests for sale as a development opportunity, rather than disposing or redeveloping sites on an individual basis.
The PCC and the Council have jointly appointed consultants – Carter Jonas and BNP Paribas Real Estate - to carry out valuation work so that both parties can review options for proposed redevelopment. The consultants have been instructed to take into account policies regarding the development of the town centre set out in the Local Plan. The work will also encompass ‘soft marketing’ testing with operators and developers to review interest in possible future uses.
In line with legislation, as an initial phase of the work the parties - either jointly or individually - are required to take account of the best financial considerations for the site. Consequently, both parties will need to consider the replacement of the existing provision of a Police Station and car parking within the town. This will be either as part of a former Magistrates Court/Police Station/Forum site redevelopment proposal or elsewhere within Cirencester, whilst also taking account of other benefits to the town.
As part of this process, both parties will soon be submitting a pre-application submission to the Council - as the Local Planning Authority - to engage with Planning Officers on the potential uses and constraints on the site. It is expected that planning and viability studies will be completed by the end of the year.
These exciting opportunities to improve Cirencester Town Centre form part of the work being carried out under the ‘One Gloucestershire Estate initiative’ following a successful funding bid to the national One Public Estate programme. This will help to look into the potential for a combined blue light emergency hub alongside Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service.
Commenting on the agreement with the PCC, CDC Leader Cllr Mark Annett said:
“It makes sense for us to come together with the PCC to investigate whether there is potential to market a large site within the heart of Cirencester rather than do this separately on a piecemeal basis. This could feasibly create opportunities for developments encompassing modern retail space, as well as a range of evening and leisure uses to complement existing provision. We also need to consider other appropriate town centre uses in line with the emerging Local Plan provisions for the town centre.
“There are many issues to resolve during these exploratory discussions, and we are mindful of the priorities for each side. From our perspective, one of our biggest challenges would be finding car parking spaces elsewhere if the Forum car park was redeveloped. We are already proposing to erect a multi-storey facility at the Waterloo site, subject to Planning permission and Council sign off on the business case, but may also need to look for other alternatives”
Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said:
“Working with the District Council offers an exciting opportunity to provide people in Cirencester with the services they require.
“Above all, the Chief Constable and I remain fully committed to a strong police presence in Cirencester, and this includes a fit for purpose police station. Securing the former Magistrates’ Court, when it became available, meant that in the short term we could secure the operational integrity of the police station while maximising the potential for redeveloping the site.
“To that end, I have agreed in principle with the District Council that I will release the site for re-development once I have managed to secure an alternative location for the police station. My preferred option would be turning the fire station into a joint police and fire facility. If that’s not possible, I will ask the District Council to include plans for a purpose-built station as part of their scheme for re-development”.