Cheltenham Civic Society will soon be looking for planning approval for an alternative scheme for the repair of the river wall between Cambray Court and Rodney Road car park. This will create a new riverside park in the centre of Cheltenham.
The 100-year-old brick retaining wall on Cambray Court’s side of the river needs to be repaired and the freeholder of the apartment blocks has already been granted planning consent for a like-for-like replacement of both the wall and the adjacent garages for the residents.
But the Civic Society thinks that it is a poor plan that will merely replicate the existing hard fabric and will keep the Chelt hidden away for perhaps another 100 years.
So the Civic Society has drawn up an alternative scheme that will open out the riverside on both sides and create a public footpath on the car park side and a private garden for Cambray Court residents on their side. The residents’ garages would be replaced with green-roofed garages, parking bays with solar canopies, storage units, a bin store and EV charging points.
The scheme will be much more environmentally friendly. It should also be cheaper than the landlord’s proposals because it would not involve all the flood prevention shuttering, excavations down to below river level, the pouring of large quantities of concrete and the compacting of large amounts of backfill. In contrast, the minimal disturbance of the watercourse by the Civic Society’s scheme would enhance the rich wildlife habitat to the benefit of species such as trout and kingfishers.
In informal pre-application consultations, Cheltenham Borough Council have said they like the Society’s scheme as it fits with their net zero and biodiversity policies. The Environment Agency has said that it would not increase the risk of flooding and would fit with their wish to see more green and blue infrastructure in Cheltenham.
Andrew Booton, Chair of the Civic Society, said: “We have consulted the residents of Cambray Court, who welcomed the ambition behind our proposals. We will be taking their feedback into account in our preparation of a full planning application for submission later this spring.
“If we are successful with this scheme, our long term aim would be to use this as a catalyst to open up further stretches of the river, create more public access and extend the riverside footpath both eastwards and westwards to improve walking and cycle routes across the town.
“Rather than just commenting on developers’ schemes and calling out poor design, this proposal also demonstrates the Society’s wish to be a much more pro-active, campaigning organisation that is prepared to show developers and both Cheltenham and Gloucestershire councils that there are often better ways to enhance our shared urban environment.
“You can expect to see much more of this in future.”
If the planning application receives consent, the Civic Society will work closely with the landowners, Cheltenham Borough Council and the Environment Agency to deliver the scheme. That may include helping with applications for funding that the Society, as a charity, can seek.