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City campus project receives major boost as Levelling Up Fund bid is approved

The University of Gloucestershire’s plans to transform the former Debenhams building into a thriving city centre campus today took a major step forward after the Chancellor announced Gloucester’s £20 million Levelling Up Fund Bid had been approved.

The funding, announced in Parliament by Rishi Sunak in his Budget statement, will support the first transformation in the country of a former department store into a university teaching campus.

Vice-Chancellor Stephen Marston said: “The University of Gloucestershire is delighted.  This funding means the University can now move ahead with even greater pace, confidence and determination with our major redevelopment of the Debenhams building to form our new City Campus.”

The University of Gloucestershire announced in March that it had bought the Debenhams building – a major focal point for the community for 80 years – and intends to redevelop the existing fabric of the building to create a vibrant new environment.

Once completed, the new campus will be a modern centre for teaching, learning and community partnerships; playing a vital role in both the regeneration of the city centre and supporting the University’s ambitious plans for growth.

In June, the University announced that the tender to drive forward the design of the new city centre campus project has been won by ADP Architecture, a leading architect with extensive experience of the UK Higher Education sector.

Funding from the Levelling Up Bid will also go to The Forge, a new hi-tech business centre cyber proofed for tech incubator SMEs. It forms part of the overall £107m Reef plc and City Council Forum partnership project, alongside a four-star hotel and new apartments.

The redevelopment of The Fleece Hotel also benefits from the new funding. With a Dowdeswell and City Council plan to create a striking new four-star 60-bed boutique hotel and shops.

Following the announcement that the Levelling Up Fund bid had been approved, Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester, said: “Simply fantastic news for all our ambitions for the City Centre and Gloucester.”

Leader of the City Council, Cllr Richard Cook, said: “This is excellent news for Gloucester and means that we can continue our regeneration programme at pace.”

Development Director at Reef PLC, Esther Croft, said:“These funds will accelerate the pace of Gloucester’s ongoing transformation, helping to bring forward The Forge at The Forum.

“This innovation hub will provide the ideal environment for emerging cyber businesses and other fledgling companies to grow, creating a wealth of new opportunities for the city and wider region.

“Securing this investment, adds further certainty that these opportunities will be delivered and that Gloucester is poised for real and positive change.”

Managing Director of Dowdeswell Group, Rod Jenner, said: “This is brilliant news. It was great to see all the projects come together on the bid with the same goal of making Gloucester the destination that it deserves.

“We can now restore the Fleece to its former glory and prepare it for the next stage in its life.”