Agora Group

The Agora Group is Cheltenham Civic Society’s Think Tank for exploring ideas, opportunities, responses and consultations.

It takes its name from the Ancient Greek word, Agora, meaning an assembly or gathering place – the centre of athletic, artistic, spiritual, commercial and political life in a city.

The health of the town centre

In the light of the Covid-19 crisis and the dramatic impacts that it is having on retailing, the Agora Group’s main current interest is the health of the town centre – not the physical state of it (for which see Successful Streets) but its commercial health and long-term sustainability.

Through the Agora Group, the Civic Society is working with Cheltenham Borough Council and the Cheltenham BID to encourage new uses that will help to bring new life to the town centre.

A return to town centre living

The Civic Society recently supported a planning application to convert the upper floors of the (now vacant) Radley store in the Promenade back to residential use. It is thought to be the first such conversion in the Promenade in recent years and it is hoped that it will trigger similar conversions of under-used space above other shops.

A return to town centre living will bring a host of benefits, including less reliance on the car, added vitality throughout both day and evening times, and an improved sense of security through the natural oversight that residents living above shops bring to public spaces.

Prioritising vitality

Supporting changes of use for some vacant shop properties will, we believe, help to maintain the vitality of our main town centre streets.

The Civic Society has been working with CBC and others to get landlords to improve the look of vacant units. In this case, the new window vinyls on the former Austin Reed shop were actually paid for by an adjacent landlord!