Cheltenham's newly elected MP, Alex Chalk, has warned of a ''hammer blow'' to the town if the proposed Eagle Star Tower conversion goes ahead.
The Eagle Tower is Cheltenham's only major tower block, providing around 1.3 hectares of high quality office space. It is currently home to some of the town's most important employers, including key creative firms such as Room 58 and Camargue, as well as a number of financial and tech companies. However, an application to convert the offices into 96 flats has been submitted by the buildings owners, with a decision on the proposal likely to be made in mid June.
In January 2015, Athey Consulting completed their investigation into Cheltenham's economic competitiveness for the Borough Council. This report outlined the pressing need to provide additional high quality space in our town, and the importance of this to ensuring that Cheltenham remains a competitive place to do business in future. The consultants also expressed concern about the town's existing office provision, describing the current offer as insufficient to meet demand.
In addition, the Council's own employment land review in 2014 estimated that Cheltenham had lost nearly 10 hectares of employment land since 1991. In light of this trend, Athey Consulting stressed the need to safeguard Cheltenham's remaining office provision.
Moreover, the Eagle Tower itself was ranked as providing the third highest quality commercial space in a 2007 Employment Land review undertaken on behalf of the Borough Council by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners, ranking above both the Quadrangle and Jessop Avenue sites in terms of suitability for businesses.
Commenting on the application, Alex Chalk said:
“The loss of such a substantial amount of office space (1.3ha) would be a hammer blow for the town. Having seen a number of prominent commercial buildings, including the former Kraft and Chelsea Building Society sites, converted for residential purposes in recent years, we cannot afford to lose yet more employment space in our town.
''I will be writing to the Borough Council's planning team, along with the leader of Cheltenham's Conservative group on the Council Tim Harman, to set out my objection to this proposal before the deadline on May 19th, and will also be contacting the Department for Communities and Local Government about this application.”