VIDEO: Gloucestershire Property Forum seminar on repurposing our high streets
By Mark Owen and David Wood | 29th September 2023
About 60 guests attended the Gloucestershire Property Forum's latest breakfast seminar yesterday morning.
The event at The Nook on Five rooftop restaurant in Cheltenham drew a wide range of guests from the property community.
Organised in conjunction with coombes:everitt architects and Evans Jones property and planning consultants, the forum focussed on repurposing our high streets.
The expert panel included Max Wilkinson, cabinet member for economic development, culture, tourism and wellbeing at Cheltenham Borough Council and also Cheltenham's Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, and Julie Holden from SaveTheHighStreet.org.
Toby Coombes of coombes:everitt and David Jones of Evans Jones also sat on the panel, along with Richard Knightley from Cheltenham-based KBW property consultants.
The event was supported by Punchline-Gloucester.com and editor Mark Owen also sat on the panel to bring his expert business and media view.
The panel discussed the issue of disused retail space in our towns and cities and how property experts can work alongside landlords, owners and local authorities to tackle this issue.
SaveTheHighStreet.org launched in August 2016 with the release of a manifesto that outlined a new vision for the high street and how that can be achieved working together. Julie Holden talked passionately about the various incubator schemes that they have set up on the high streets and by being a 'guiding hand' how they could help new start-ups flourish, especially businesses that used to only trade online and now wanted a physical presence.
Richard Knightley explained about the experiences of KBW on the Prom and elsewhere, and how the slow planning process was affecting the viability of schemes. Where there had been opportunities to convert the top floors retail units into residential flats but because of delays and additional costs waiting for the scheme to go ahead - the plans had been changed to just storage units with Christmas trees in the windows.
Mark Owen explained about his trips around the county visiting the various high streets and instead of being doomed - they were far from it. Yes, there were various towns that were struggling at the moment but there were others in the Cotswolds, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Stroud and Nailsworth that were bucking the trend. He called on all of us to support each other and visit other places on their doorsteps. He also believes that the current planning system is broken and needs investment.
Parking, public realm and business rates were also discussed.
There was a general discussion on the points raised and guests had a chance to ask questions.
David Jones, who chaired the seminar, said: "We hold regular events and today was about regenerating the high street and what we can do from a practical and building point of view, what the blockers are, how we can assist landlords, tenants, property owners, local authorities and other stakeholders release what is an untapped resource above shops and retail and commercial premises and bring more people into the town centre and help with that regeneration.
"We had a great panel spread across the commercial realm giving us great insight into how we can help regenerate our high streets and ensure they are fit for purpose."
Toby Coombes, from coombes:everitt, said: "There were really positive discussions with lots of good stuff from Max in terms of the politics and the pushing that way and interesting commentary from Richard Knightley on how the market is moving and changing.
"There was positivity in terms of the potential for redesign and the negatives were in terms of where we go with VAT on listed buildings and business rates needing readjusting and just really go with the viability and helping landlords and tenants ensure that the high street is viable and vibrant.
"The best thing was how well the event was attended and the positive attitude everyone's got in wanting to spend time and invest their own time in terms of the high street and how it moves forward in the next 10 years.."
For further information on the Gloucestershire Property Forum or to get involved with future events, email email@example.com
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