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Gloucestershire Business News

New moves to regenerate fire-hit hotel site

Gloucester City Council is looking for an investor to help bring the former Fleece Hotel site in the city's Westgate Street back into use.

After lying empty for many years the historic hotel was badly damaged by fire last July.

Now proposals are being considered by the city council to find an investor to regenerate the site.

The complex includes some of Gloucester's most historically important buildings, including the Grade 1 listed 12th century undercroft vault (pictured), known as the Monks Retreat. There has been a hotel on site since 1497 and it was a resting place for pilgrims visiting the tomb of Edward II.

The council is proposing to find a development partner to bring these cherished grade 1 and 2 listed buildings back into use, and is anticipating that the Longsmith Street car park would also be included in the redevelopment scheme.

The Fleece site closed as a hotel in 2002, when it was purchased by the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA). Ownership transferred to the city council in 2011 when SWRDA disbanded, and the council almost immediately carried out £350,000 of stabilisation works to protect the historic buildings.

The council has received a number of enquiries from interested parties, and has decided that the best approach is to open up the site to the market to secure the best scheme for the city.

A development brief will be prepared to serve as a 'blueprint' for the regeneration of The Fleece site and make the most of its potential. This could include recommendations to incorporate the Longsmith Street multi-storey carpark in the redevelopment, with the developer working with the city council to provide replacement parking elsewhere in the city centre.

No decisions have been taken about how the buildings could be used, but potential options include a food and drink or specialist retail destination, boutique hotel, residential or cultural uses, or a combination of these.

A key requirement is that the proposals would allow the public to enjoy the Fleece's unique history and character, taking advantage of its location, linking the city centre shops with the Blackfriars area and the Docks. Any redevelopment would see the important heritage buildings being sensitively restored.

Cllr Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council and cabinet member for regeneration and economy, said: "The Fleece has a place in the hearts of many local people, who will have fond memories of time spent there. It has been empty far longer that we would have liked but we are now in a strong position to secure investment for its future.

"Its redevelopment has the potential to improve links between the city centre, the Blackfriars area and the Docks, and add greatly to the vibrancy of Westgate Street in particular and the city centre as a whole."

Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Liberal Democrat group leader on the city council, said restoration was vitally important and he was disappointed that little progress had been made since 2002.

"Since the Fleece Hotel was transferred to the city council at least some work has been done to stabilise the listed buildings," said Cllr Hilton. "However, we need to remember we had a fire in the extension to the Fleece only this year.

"I agree that the Longsmith car park should be added to the development site. This ugly structure needs to be demolished. The proposed development brief must show some imagination to inspire potential would be lovely to see he Fleece Hotel restored to its former glory to become another landmark in Westgate Street."

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