‘Gloomy’ churchyard set to become bright and welcoming space

Published: October 4, 2021

Over the past months, the Gloucester Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), who are a group of expert advisers on all church and churchyard- related matters, have been involved in conversations with Cheltenham Borough Council and the Parochial Church Council on the planning phase of the project. They have now formally recommended the scheme for approval.

There’s currently a public notice period and comments from the public about the scheme are welcomed. A final decision on the works will be made by the Diocesan Chancellor and it is hoped that Cheltenham Borough Council will be able to start work in the churchyard in early 2022.

Churchwarden Bill Harvey said, “Development all round it has hidden it from view despite its town-centre location. Accessed by a series of narrow approaches, the churchyard is gloomy and unwelcoming, darkened by quite a dense tree canopy and characterised by dysfunctional behaviour, all of which makes it quite a threatening place to visit, certainly at night.”

Work will be starting on the new site early in 2022, with the construction of Cheltenham’s new Minster Exchange.

The Minster Exchange building will be constructed on an area of land between Cheltenham Library and the Minster, to house a state of the art workspace for cyber tech digital and creative sectors, for which Cheltenham is so well known.

There will be a Growth Hub to support business development, an event space and a cafe. The wall and fence between the library at the Minster Church will come down, creating more space, and allowing people to walk through the churchyard to the Exchange.

Working in partnership and with funding from Cheltenham Borough Council, the pathways will be resurfaced and extended, with more lighting put in, including some well-lit seating areas. The tree canopy will be managed to allow more natural light into the space and there will be a waiting area for vehicles coming to the Minster.

They’re even looking at plans to plant vegetation on the tops of the litter bins to ensure that it continues to be a space where nature can thrive.

Bill added, “The improvements aim to make it safer and more attractive for those passing through, as well as being a calm outdoor space for relaxation, church and community events.”

Richard Coombs, the Rector of Cheltenham added, ‘I am excited about how the plans for the redevelopment of the churchyard will link the Minster Exchange to the Minster itself, giving the opportunity for the Minister to play a new role in the life of the town. I hope that it will become a place of welcome, hospitality and telling of the Christian story.’

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