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Gloucestershire Business News

Cinderford Northern Quarter redevelopment takes a step forward

The £100million redevelopment of Cinderford Northern Quarter will move forward following an inquiry into the site.

Recommendations include a new route for the spine road through Hawkwell Inclosure, relocating Steam Mills Primary School, the creation of a eco-visitor centre and looking at alternative residential development ideas such as self-build plots and community-led housing.

They are part of a report aimed at identifying the best way forward with the controversial site, which has a long and complex history.

It was presented to a meeting of the Forest Of Dean cabinet last night by Cllr Nick Evans, chairman of the council's overview and scrutiny committee.

He said: "I want to stress, this report is not about blame. It is about looking to the future and being pragmatic about the future options available and to gather evidence that either supports or disproves some of the various contentions we have all heard about the very complex history of this site."

The first phase of the project saw the construction of one section of the spine road and the Forest of Dean campus of Gloucestershire College, completed in 2018 and home to more than 320 students.

Launched in 2021, the inquiry panel of councillors heard evidence from 17 organisations and looked at nine written responses to assess the best way to progress the stalled project.

Cllr Tim Gwilliam, leader of the council, said:""The report is quite clear in recommending that we do look to achieve something on the site for the people of Cinderford and the Forest that is in line with the Cinderford Action Plan and with due regard for social, economic and environmental impacts and based on the findings in the report we can now move forward and help to create an exciting future for the area.

"We must at the same time also acknowledge the challenging site conditions and learn from the past."

Recommendations in the report, include an education and skills led industry-community partnership to deliver limited community led housing, a visitor eco-centre, and to take a holistic approach to development which ensures sustainable development is carried out in a way that respects the history of the site, whilst also helping to create sustainable, viable plans for the future of the area.

Cabinet has requested council officers begin work on a number of points:

-Proceed with planning applications for the development of work units/live work units on plots F1 and F2 at the Cinderford Northern Quarter.

-Use the findings from the inquiry to consider how Cinderford Northern Quarter sits in the new Local Plan 2041 and consider the impact of all relevant changes to legislation, regulations, and best practice guidance.

-Engage with local educational and construction organisations to see if there is an opportunity to work in partnership with the council in delivering residential development in a way that improves its viability and is better aligned to the challenging land conditions. This might include non standard construction /low impact homes or even student accommodation on the site. The cabinet believes that by using those educational organisations, their apprentices, trainees, and our local companies we can possibly deliver true community housing and business premises while at the same time giving those students an opportunity to learn hands on.

-Engage with Steam Mills Primary School and the local education authorities to see if there is an appetite for discussion of relocation of the school to the Cinderford Northern Quarter in line with the current road availability. At the same time, engage with Gloucestershire Highways to look at 20mph zones outside all schools, during school hours.

-Engage with Gloucestershire College, Hartpury College and University, local secondary schools from across the district and colleagues at Wye Valley Tourism to develop the prospect of a wildlife/environment training and visitor centre on the rest of the site.

Cllr Gwilliam said: "Now is not the time for arguing and more needless cost and loss. We must accept that what was once considered achievable may no longer be and adjust our aspirations accordingly.

"The excessive and extra costs of the road are not an issue we can ignore and nor should we. It is a simple fact that further funding for extension of the road has not come forward in recent years, and there is no sign of it in the near future (although that may change), but neither is it the time for more delay, more self interested misinformation or scaremongering.

"We must deal with the here and now and the recommendations of a year long enquiry. What a thing it would be to make the Northern Quarter and the rest of the Forest of Dean the place for young people to study flora and fauna and perhaps even our climate. There would be no better place in the country and nowhere more deserving.

"This area of Cinderford provides us with the opportunity to work together to create something truly special on an important and historic site, not just for Cinderford itself, but for the whole of the Forest of Dean."

Details for the proposals at Cinderford Northern Quarter can be found on the council's website.

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