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VIDEO: 'The future is very bright for Gloucester'

Transformations of the high street don't come much bigger than that experienced by Gloucester Quays and Docks in the past few decades.

In the fifth of Punchline's series 'Repurposing the High Street', Punchline editor Mark Owen was joined by planning expert David Jones, managing director of Evans Jones, who grew up in Gloucester and who found parts of the area almost unrecognisable to how he remembered it 50 years ago.

Mr Jones said: "I remember the docks from the late Sixties to the Seventies and, boy, what a change we've seen! On the corner we had a glass shop, we had a carpet shop, and we had a motor salvage around the corner.

"It was very much a sub-prime area where buildings were being used, probably effectively, but only ground floor uses that probably couldn't find a home anywhere else. But look at it now - vibrant, attractive and pulling people in.

"What is critical and important for town centres all over the country is what impact regeneration like this can have in pulling all sorts of different uses in and as we stand here today I think we have to declare it a resounding success, not only the first phase but the second phase."

He added: "Gloucester has just been voted by Rightmove one of the top five upward value places in the country - I mean, how fantastic is that?"

Although the regeneration had been somewhat stymied by recession, Mr Jones said: "That happens - we get recessions every 10 or 20 years and every town or city must take faith from that and learn from it."

Now part of the Quays is used as a Winter Wonderland with an ice rink, and during the year there are food festivals and markets.

"What a great space it is with people living around it and by the waterside," said Mr Jones. "People love living and occupying spaces by water - it's just a draw. We have little electric boats which you can hire and drive round the docks."

Mr Jones gave a brief history lesson, saying that Gloucester Docks opened in 1827 with the peak period between about 1850 and 1870 but things started to tail off when Sharpness opened and took some of the bigger ships. However, Gloucester didn't stop trading as a port until 1980.

"What a great pedigree of buildings it left," he said.

"The Food Dock is providing a space for local retailers to offer a really valuable facility for the docks but what it will do, because it's so visible, is pull people from the Quays through the docks and I hope will open up the linkage to the city centre which has always been a little bit of a problem.

"I think the Food Dock is going to be one aspect that is going to bring people together and bring people into the city centre."

Mr Jones also highlighted the former Gloucester Prison which he described as the 'seventh of the Magnificent Seven' and seemed to be sitting there waiting for redevelopment.

"They've had various consents but it's always about viability, but if Rightmove are saying that Gloucester is the fifth highest rising place in the country then that has got to give confidence to whether it's town, city or another developer to come forward and to redevelop that building.

"It's all about capitalism ultimately. If the money is there and the value is right then people will develop. I'm seeing a lot of money coming to Gloucester now, not only through the Levelling Up fund - that's helping to pump prime matters - but also as those values rise and developers I speak to are very confident about building in Gloucester - they wouldn't have been 10 or 15 years ago - so I think the future is very, very bright for Gloucester and it's a real place to watch."

For more information on Evans Jones, call 01242 522822, email info@evansjones.co.uk  or visit evansjones.co.uk 

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