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Gloucestershire Business News

What does sale of Debenhams building mean for Gloucester?

The future of the Debenhams building in the heart of Gloucester has become a lot clearer with the announcement it has been bought by the University of Gloucestershire.

The university intends to create a campus in the city centre and explore using part of the ground floor for community dual-use facilities.

But what does the plan mean for the city centre and the adjoining King's Quarter development?

Punchline sought out some expert opinions.

Debenhams building bought by University of Gloucestershire

Joe Roberts
Roberts Limbrick Architects

"Wow. At a time when the traditional role of city centres is under threat from major changes in shopping behaviour and commercial property use, this is a masterstroke and a potential game changer for Gloucester and its regeneration plans.

"We commend and applaud the university for this bold move.

"This proposal will safeguard the building and bring a greater diversity of use to the centre which complements and enhances the wider plans for King's Quarter and the square.

"A modern, vibrant city centre has to be mixed use, densely populated and incorporate layers of use that complement each other.

"This approach will see interaction between education, retail, leisure and public realm which is key to building a vibrant city centre."

Sam Holliday
Development manager, Gloucestershire
Federation of Small Businesses

"This very surprising news is very exciting for Gloucester and hopefully all the businesses within the city centre.

"Whenever a town centre loses one of its most important and iconic businesses, inevitably all the smaller ones around it suffer as well because it becomes one less reason for people to go into the area.

"Although a retail replacement would have been excellent, in the current climate that was looking unlikely so it is very good news the University of Gloucestershire will take this space because that will inevitably bring energy, vitality and renewed life to the area which can only benefit all those shops, hospitality venues and other businesses nearby.

"When combined with the imaginative plans for The Forum, this could all have a transformative impact on the city and anything that is good for Gloucester is good for the businesses within it.

"I am very pleased to see this because no one wanted to see that fantastic old building disappear when it holds so many happy memories for generations of shop workers and local people."

Patrick Downes
Trust In Property

"Repurposing the high street is desperately needed throughout the UK, but as many ideas, innovative and original, come forwards it is going to be critical to see action.

"The purchase of the Debenhams building in Gloucester is a bold and impressive move.

"It is not a new idea for university facilities to be within a city or town - that's where they started - but it is unusual for such uses to return to the centres.

"Maybe this is a clue for all of us when repurposing and we should look closely at all the many uses which were once in town to return.

"The greatest credit to the city and to the university is the fact that this has happened so swiftly which helps with the wow factor, but its greatest benefit is for the confidence of so many who are contributing to improve such a great city."

Simon Firkins
Managing director
SF Planning

"The high street of every city and town in the country was under great pressure prior to the even more devastating impacts of Covid-19.

"As necessary as the majority of us agree the lockdown measures are, the adverse effect on high streets has been enormous with traditional large retailers suffering in particular.

"The university's plans for this large, important space in the city centre is most welcomed. In order to survive, our high streets need to be reimagined and reinvented.

"I cannot think of a better use for this location. It will generate much-needed activity throughout the day and into the evening with benefits for the community, the economy, the future of the city in general and, in turn, the health and wellbeing of all those who live, study and work in or visit Gloucester.

"The anxiety of the impact of another significant vacant space in the city is palpable, more so perhaps for this landmark building.

"A sense of relief thus accompanies the optimism associated with the university's announcement.

"We trust the powers that be will do all they can to assist the plans being realised as swiftly as possible."

Chris Price
Tayntons Solicitors

"The striking Art Deco Debenhams building in the heart of Gloucester is well known to everyone in the city.

"The announcement that the University of Gloucestershire intends to turn the site into a new five-storey teaching campus is excellent news for the city.

"With the first phase set to open in September 2023, the influx of students, lecturers and other staff into the centre is bound to stimulate business and bring new energy to the area.

"The new younger demographic will be a welcome boost with the likelihood that some graduates will stay in the city following the end of their courses, meaning an increase in young workers with ideas and enthusiasm.

"Combined with the £110million regeneration of the King's Square area, the future of central Gloucester is set to be bright and vibrant.

"As a law firm in the city centre, Tayntons welcomes this development and looks forward to the new dimension it will bring."

David Jones
Managing director and head of planning Evans Jones

"I am delighted to hear the news that the University of Gloucestershire has confirmed plans to redevelop the Debenhams building in Gloucester.

"It is an iconic building and its position adjoining the King's Quarter development has always made it an attractive proposition to become a cornerstone of the city centre.

"A campus for teaching, learning and community partnerships is a fantastic use for the site and its proximity to the King's Quarter development will create a vibrant centre - that honeypot that we need to draw people back into our town centres once more.

"I do believe Gloucester is on the front foot in the race to adapt to changes on the high street when we emerge from a year of coronavirus restrictions into the post-pandemic world.

"Gloucester has been brave in grasping what it has in terms of King's Square, a massive area for a city centre compared with others of a similar size. The university's plans are the icing on the cake.

"I have always said that if we can create town centres in which people want to live, work, learn and play, we can give them a beating heart once again - these plans will do just that."

Adrian Rowley
Alder King

"This is tremendous news for Gloucester and a huge boost for the regeneration of the city centre and the King's Quarter scheme.

"Repositioning our town and city centres has come into even more focus over the last 12 months and introducing this significant new use in to the heart of the city centre will have enormous benefits for the city.

"The university should be congratulated on this bold investment and commitment."

What do you think of the plans for the Debenhams building? Let us know at

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