My objection to the proposed Eagle Tower development

Alex Chalk

MP for Cheltenham

275A Gloucester Road

Cheltenham

GL51 7AA

 

14 May 2015

 

 

Planning Department

Cheltenham Borough Council

Municipal Offices

Promenade

Cheltenham

GL50 9SA

 

 

 

15/00707/P3JPA – Change of use of the upper floors (floors 1-12) from offices (B1) to residential (C3) to provide 96 apartments. Eagle Star Tower Block Montpellier Drive Cheltenham Gloucestershire

 

 

We write in objection to the above proposal to convert Eagle Tower to residential use on the following grounds:

 

·       -Detriment to Cheltenham’s economy

·       -Impact on nearby businesses

·       -Traffic and car parking

 

The points are expanded overleaf.

 

We therefore request that Cheltenham Borough Council reject this application.

 

 

Alex Chalk

MP for Cheltenham

 

Tim Harman

Leader of the Conservative Group

Cheltenham Borough Council

 

Detriment to Cheltenham’s Economy

 

Eagle Tower is home to a wide array and variety of businesses. It is clear that this application would result in the substantial loss of much needed good quality office space in Cheltenham.

 

Indeed, Cheltenham Borough Council’s own independent economic analysis, produced by Athey Consulting, highlighted the lack of high grade office space in Cheltenham, particularly over 1,000sq m.  As the report noted:

 

·       -Cheltenham has a large quantum of office space but is not enough to meet demand;

·       -the offer is concentrated on small size office space in traditional buildings (80% are less than 500 sq m);

·       -loss of employment land to other uses compounds the issue; notes the loss -9.67 ha since 1991 and therefore we need to safeguard even the poorest sites.

 

In their 2015 report, Athey Consulting rated Cheltenham’s High Quality Office Space as ‘red’ on their RAG scale (reflecting the issues that are likely to have the greatest impact on our economic competitiveness and those that should be addressed more immediately) and particularly noted the loss of office space to residential use. Specifically, they referred to:

 

·       -Limited prime, high grade office supply in both town centre and business park locations to meet new business demand and expansion space for existing indigenous businesses.

·       -Existing office supply being diminished through loss of office use to residential. Since 2010 there has been a net loss of 2,239 sq m and 1.87 hectares of B1a space.

 

The Athey Consulting report also noted the comments of the previous Local Plan Inspector, namely that the lack of employment sites may have a serious impact on local firms wishing to expand or move to new premises whilst remaining in the Borough, and may similarly limit the attractiveness of Cheltenham to inward investors.

 

The Eagle Tower is one of very few large scale, high quality offices in Cheltenham, providing around 1.3ha of commercial space, and is a valuable asset to the town. In a 2007 Land Review, conducted by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partnerts, it was ranked as providing the third highest quality office space in Cheltenham, ahead of both the Quadrandle and Jessop Avenue.

 

Its loss to residential use would therefore have a serious impact on the town’s economy.  Already short of suitable office space, it is our fear, confirmed by a number of occupant businesses currently based at Eagle Tower, that the wide range of businesses displaced by its closure would have no choice but to relocate outside of Cheltenham, and possibly away from the area altogether.

 

 

Impact on nearby support businesses

 

As well as the large number of jobs provided by businesses at Eagle Tower directly, the occupant businesses also indirectly support many other businesses in the surrounding area, both through support needs and also by providing footfall for local small businesses, for example from employees on lunch breaks or passing through after work.

 

With those businesses in closest proximity to the site likely to be affected the most, the impact of the loss of trade on these support businesses could be significant and could change the character of the area.

 

While we lack clarity about the applicant’s intentions, it seems inevitable that residential conversion would result in a reduction in footfall for local shops and cafes, especially those in the Bath Road area. In an age of increasing competition and rising overheads, small businesses need our support. We believe the approval of this proposal would set Cheltenham on the dangerous path towards becoming a dormitory town, with no space for businesses to grow into, and no plan for where the jobs of tomorrow are going to come from.

 

Traffic and Car parking

 

As noted by a number of other objections from businesses occupying Eagle Tower, many current employees live locally and walk, cycle or use public transport to get to and from work.  Should businesses be forced to relocate to other sites, many of these journeys could therefore be expected to be replaced by car journeys, thus increasing the pressure on Cheltenham’s already congested road network.

 

The expected increase in off-peak traffic flows and parking requirements, particularly in the evenings, could also place additional strain on already limited parking provision in the area.

 

Therefore, for the reasons listed above, we implore you to reject this proposal, which we believe would have a detrimental effect on Cheltenham as a business destination, would impact negatively upon local small traders, and would accentuate already concerning levels of congestion in our town to a new level.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Alex Chalk

MP for Cheltenham

 

Tim Harman,

Leader of the Conservative Group, Cheltenham Borough Council