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Gloucestershire Business News

Plans to create centre for 75 innovative businesses in Stroud

The leaseholder of a historic building on the outskirts of Stroud has spoken of plans to create a "dynamic centre" for new businesses, shoppers and diners.

There has been controversy after Malt House Emporium said on it is Facebook page that it had been given notice to vacate the building at Salmon Springs by the end of October.

But the leaseholder Daniel Sturdy said a break clause had been exercised because it was not possible to "secure the flexibility required to evolve the Emporium model into a space that would complement the other businesses in the building."

GFirst LEP is also in negotiations to create a Stroud Growth Hub in the building, the site of a former mill and a beer bottling plant.

The building's leaseholder since October, 2014, Daniel Sturdy said: "When we took on the lease for the Malt House in October 2014 we had a vision which we shared with the owners of revitalising a superb but tired building which strongly exemplifies Stroud's industrial and manufacturing heritage.

"Our plan was to develop a ground-breaking concept combining the latest in technological advances with the traditional artisan skills that once drove the local economy.

"The vision was for a Makespace in the basement where entrepreneurs, inventors and designers, young and old, could use the latest technology to develop rapid prototypes for new exciting products and services.

"The Maker space movement is very large in the USA and there are some notable examples in the UK, such as Cambridge and London.

"Our twist on the idea was to combine the Makespace with retail space, so that the product developers can receive instant feedback on their designs, social space to encourage collaborative discussions, and some business incubation space for the developers who wanted to take their products and ideas to the next stage."

Mr Sturdy said that previously they did not have the capital to develop the whole space and so entered into an agreement with Truly Unique Emporium to sublet the ground floor and first floor to a diverse group of antique dealers.

"In order to preserve the possibility of us being able to fulfil the original vision, and in line with normal business practice, the lease contained a break clause with Truly Unique Emporium Ltd which we could exercise if we felt that we were able to proceed with the bigger project," he said.

"Having submitted our bid with GFirst LEP for a Growth Hub for the Stroud area and to develop the currently empty basement to create this 'Make Space' it was necessary to address the integration of the three businesses to support our future plans.

"Over the last few months we have had discussions with many potential partners who have been excited by the vision of Stroud having an innovative and dynamic artisan producer / retail space."

The leaseholder said it wasn't until they heard that Truly Unique Emporium was in the process of securing new premises in Tewkesbury, that they took the difficult decision at the end of May to exercise the break clause. However, this is disputed by the emporium owners who says they are expanding to Tewkesbury, not moving.

The leaseholder Daniel Sturdy said: "We are pleased to announce that from the 1st of November we will be launching a new enterprise. It will offer space to around 75 small businesses, both dealers and artisans, in a supportive and collaborative environment, working closely with the 'MakeSpace'.

"The 'Makers Yard' space will provide new makers with an introduction to a retail environment and an opportunity to learn from experienced designers, artists and restorers, who either work in the 'MakeSpace', or rent space as a dealer or maker in the shop.

"It will also offer a chance for customers to 'Meet the Makers' to buy and commission work.

"Our focus is the next stage of development at the Malthouse, following significant investment to the Bar and Kitchen, to make the whole site an attractive and dynamic destination for shoppers, traders, makers and diners."

The Malt House Emporium owners are raising a petition in support of remaining at Salmon Springs. They say in a statement on Facebook: "We do not wish to leave, and the 100 small businesses who trade with us, and 8 staff who will be made unemployed, are devastated that their business, and livelihood, could be destroyed."

In a statement GFirst LEP said: "GFirst LEP wants to support the growth of businesses in Stroud district through our Growth Hub offer. We are currently considering an early stage proposal to site a Growth Hub at Salmon Springs - the Malt House.

"The proposal we are considering is for use of space that is currently empty and is not occupied by the Malt House Emporium traders. The nature of other tenants on the site, including the antiques centre, adds to the attraction of Severn Springs as a venue for a Growth Hub.

"The LEP would not support a Growth Hub proposal that displaced existing activity.

"The LEP has not approved any funding for the project and will not do so until full due diligence has been carried out."

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