The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has submitted a planning application to Forest of Dean District Council for a new £15 million Royal Forest of Dean campus for Gloucestershire College and £8.9 million ‘spine’ access road to enable the employment, leisure and residential development proposed for this former mining area.
The Agency has also submitted an outline planning application for a new hotel, employment and business space, a visitor centre linked to the area’s heritage and up to 195 new homes, to be considered alongside its detailed proposals for a college and spine road.
These are core elements of a major development that would fulfil the long-standing commitment to bring the former mining areas within the Cinderford Northern Quarter back into productive use. If approved, the development would secure a once-in-a-generation level and mix of investment to create more than 1,000 jobs, and unlock more than £100 million in investment to create an attractive prospect for business, education, lifestyle and homes in a beautiful forest setting.
The regeneration aims to bring employment and investment to the district by creating a vibrant new destination for business, education, new and affordable homes in a beautiful forest setting, whilst protecting and enhancing local wildlife habitats. The new Northern Quarter would also benefit from BT’s Fastershire superfast broadband project, which is crucial to the area’s future educational and economic performance.
Vice Chair of the Cinderford Regeneration Board, Councillor Tim Holder, said:
After years of debate and planning this is an important step towards bringing new jobs, businesses and homes to Cinderford, plus a state-of-the art college for the Forest of Dean. Local people support these proposals and have already dedicated a huge amount of time and effort to bringing the Northern Quarter vision to life. The people of Cinderford and the Forest of Dean deserve access to the best modern facilities and the proposed Northern Quarter development will make this dream a reality.
A 21st century college for Forest of Dean students
If plans for the new college are approved, its 7,000-plus square metres sleek and super-energy-efficient building, built to BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standard, will grace the lakeside as a centrepiece of the Northern Quarter. Features of the new campus include an independent sixth form centre, jointly run by Gloucestershire College and Dene Magna School, a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) centre and a new training restaurant, alongside open community spaces.
In addition to A Levels in the joint sixth form, vocational curriculum areas on offer at the campus in the new modernised facilities include art, business, catering, computing, construction and building services, hairdressing, health, care and early years, fashion, foundation studies, media, motor vehicle, music, outdoor adventure, photography and teacher training amongst others. The college also intends to increase the range of construction courses available, and it is hoped that new courses in heritage skills will be developed in the future.
Gloucestershire College Principal Matthew Burgess said:
We’re tremendously excited about getting to this stage in our plans to bring 21st century facilities and opportunities to the Forest of Dean. Our school leavers deserve the same amenities as students elsewhere. Investing in their future is an investment into the whole of the Forest of Dean, and we will continue to work closely with businesses in the area to ensure all of our students leave us with the skills to be successful in the workplace.
Gloucester-based company Barnwood Construction has been appointed to build the new college. They employ more than 200 people and have actively recruited from the Forest area for 50 years. Their contract will involve working with current students and offering apprenticeships during the development.
Safe and easy access
If approved, the new Northern Quarter spine road would be constructed through the centre of the site to create convenient access to all of the educational, residential and commercial areas, as part of the phased programme of works.
When complete, the 30mph-limit road would be designed to relieve congestion for local residents along Steam Mills Road. The new road would be sensitively designed with the natural environment in mind and link the A4136 at Northern United with Broadmoor Road.
Protecting wildlife and habitats
Developing the site involves a great deal of work and investment to care for a complex and diverse eco-system. The regeneration board recognises that the Forest is an internationally important location for particular species like the lesser horseshoe bats, and that public access to the area is a precious asset to be preserved.
The project includes a comprehensive package of ecological measures to safeguard the area’s wildlife, including protection of key bat flyways, new bat roosts, habitat piles for toads and newts and nest boxes for dormice. Environmental consultants have been commissioned by the HCA to make sure that the regeneration complies with the district council’s Draft Biodiversity Strategy Technical Guidance, to safeguard wildlife during the redevelopment and improve natural habitats for protected species. Progress against a 10-year ecology plan for the area will be tracked to ensure that all work complies with the necessary environmental regulations.
David Warburton, HCA Head of Area, said:
A strong commitment from all partners to sustainability and protecting wildlife is right at the heart of this project. As a government body, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that development of the site meets all environmental and sustainability obligations. We’re doing everything we can to protect wildlife, including making significant investment in a huge range of measures to protect bats, dormice and newts and having ecology experts regularly present on site to hand search and monitor all aspects of the work.
This has enabled us to put forward proposals for a sustainable development that protects and enhances natural habitats. It also creates the facilities and attracts the investment that partners in the Forest of Dean are working to deliver.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Forest, which has strong support from the local community. I’m sure people will welcome this milestone and take the opportunity to find out more about the proposals.
This care and attention to the natural world is matched by the regeneration board’s commitment to other dimensions of sustainability. The learning, jobs and homes built in the Northern Quarter have to be sustainable too, so that they provide education, employment, skills, amenities and opportunities that will last and benefit Cinderford and the rest of the Forest of Dean in the long term.
Planning and consultation
The 21-day public consultation period is the chance for everyone with an interest in the Northern Quarter project to find out exactly what’s proposed and to have their say. This is part of the 16-week period allowed for the council to determine the planning application.
The HCA has submitted planning applications that cover:
- highway infrastructure and improvements including a new link road between the A4136 and Broadmoor Road, landscaping, service infrastructure and other associated work
- a new education campus including a building of 7,750 square metre building, access, parking and associated work
Outline plans have also been submitted for:
- a new hotel (of up to 3,000 square metres).
- up to 18,800 sq m of new employment and business space.
- up to 195 new homes.
- a visitor centre linked to the area’s heritage
Join the conversation about the Cinderford Northern Quarter regeneration on Twitter and use the following hashtags: #betterforest #forestcampus #forestnature #forestwork