A haemorrhaging of young talent

As the President of a Students’ Union, I have the privilege of representing thousands of young people every day. This can be a challenging time as my generation aim to combine our studies and getting a good degree with meeting new friends, gaining work experience, and developing crucial life skills, all while taking decisions which will shape the rest of our lives. Student life is fun, rewarding but often quite stressful too!

From my experience, young people tend to crave the culture of large cities and the opportunity available to them. Cities offer a vibrant and bustling lifestyle which can keep oneself occupied. The general availability of amenities such as supermarkets, shops, clubs, bars, venues, and availability of potential employment means that young adults don’t have to live heavily planned lifestyles. This is very appealing to a generation reared on spontaneity.

If you want to go to a nightclub? You can because there’s more clubs than you can shake a stick at.

Forgot to stock up on groceries? No worries, you can pop round the nearest supermarket that opens 24/7.

Need to travel late at night? Transport will usually operate late into the night with efficiency. One of the appeals of city life is also the fact that public transport is usually better and readily available which makes you less reliant on a car.

I also think that with people from smaller towns, there tends to be a desire to go somewhere busier, more exciting, more amazing.

The culture of cities is also more vibrant and allows for a variety of different experiences. You can visit numerous vegan shops and cafes, or perhaps go to a world-foods market, and so on.

Gloucestershire is a wonderful place, and the University of Gloucestershire a truly fantastic University. I wouldn’t swap my time here for any other university, any other place.  But could we honestly say that any of the above is true here? Is Gloucestershire appealing to young people? Not overly, no. The proof is there. Each year we lose 400 young people to other areas.

Rural living (even the centre of Gloucester is quite rural compared to Bristol!) can be quiet and uneventful. You’ll be far away from nightclubs or bustling cultural centres.

Gloucestershire 2050, quite uniquely, is looking at these problems for the long-term. Lack of affordable homes, poor transport infrastructure, lack of entertainment (outside of the Student’s Union – which is great!), a haemorrhaging of young talent to cities are all being considered.

Would having Gloucester and Cheltenham working closer together, driving forward exciting projects, improving transport links, bringing investment and jobs be attractive to younger people – yes it would! Do we need somewhere to live? Yes we do! Are we passionate about Gloucestershire’s future? You bet we are.

I am encouraging everyone in my generation to submit their views to the consultation. I certainly have given them my thoughts. I want Gloucestershire to remain the beautiful, unique place that it is but I also recognise that retaining its charms is not the same as avoiding change. So, the more young voices that speak up for our future the better we can make: get onto glos2050.com and complete the survey to give your views!

Vicki Hatton, Students’ Union President
University of Gloucestershire



A Super City to be feared or cherished?

So just what do those 2050 folks mean when they say they want a Super City?  Does it mean joining up Gloucester City and Cheltenham Town with new housing to create a Super City – simply called so because of its size?  I sincerely hope not and believe that’s not what’s being proposed.  If that’s all we deliver then we will have failed.  Yes, when you add up the population of what the Super City could be – taking together Cheltenham, Gloucester and parts of Tewkesbury Borough – it will be large, but does that mean we shouldn’t even consider it?  How else might we understand the “super” in Super City?

The Oxford English Dictionary (and yes I still use one) defines “super” as “exceptional, splendid”, “to a great or extreme degree”, “extra good or large of its kind” or even “of a higher kind”.  So, you can take your pick but I’m going to focus on the “of a higher kind” meaning.

Ok, I hear you ask, just what does that mean?  To me it means radically changing the way we do our planning and the delivery of major transformational projects including housing and the associated infrastructure.  It means ending the competition between Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester, and working together in designing and delivering a Super City that is “citizen led”.  And most of all it means us all taking off our respective hats, be that as councillors, protestors, special interest groups or even developers, and remembering that, after all, we have one thing in common, and that is we are all people who want to live somewhere nice and want to help shape the future!

We should be coming together in true partnership to deliver a Super City that is not to be greeted with gloom and despair, but one founded on excitement, realism and pride.  Built by seeking out and providing the solutions to our health, education, employment and day-to-day living that presents us with enough challenges today, let alone tomorrow.

Now is the time to throw off the shackles of old ways of thinking and acting, and form a development partnership, a “joint venture” if you like, between local government, commerce, business, and most of all the people.  Why not get that up and running now so it can provide leadership at the time it is needed, and it is not just left to developers and councils to spend years in endless meetings too-ing and fro-ing over who said what, who agreed what and who pays for what?  That doesn’t mean the end to our local councils but means we work together to respect our diversity, play to our strengths and complement not compete with each other.

Let’s start the debate now and get people asking questions.  What will our young people of tomorrow want?  More of the same that is currently denying them the opportunity to own or even rent a house with any security of tenure? What can we provide for our older people in terms of choices of housing so that they can downsize and stay independent in their own homes? Do our health providers want a larger say in where we build so that we can have dementia friendly housing, housing that reduces social isolation, loneliness and improves mental health for all age groups?  Let’s put care homes next to schools next to green areas.  Do our homes need to be capable of adapting for three generations to live in?  Will a Super City be all electric?

And let’s be radical about car ownership and the dreaded P word, “Parking” because things will change.  My VW is six years old and it can park itself so stop thinking that driverless cars will always be a thing of the future – how can we embrace the opportunities they bring rather than challenge the idea in some utopian preference for the status quo?  Does public transport of the future mean driverless coaches running around the Super City giving regular and reliable access to all?  No, you’ll never get me in something driverless, many people might say – yet how many of us get on the Docklands Light Railway in London, without a thought that there is no-one at the front in control? And over a hundred million passengers a year still do!  Can we have less car usage and so, instead of miles of tarmac, give us more green spaces for leisure and food production?

A Super City where profit is allowed, because it’s not always a dirty word, but also where some of that profit is ploughed back into the community that lives there – true Garden City principals of Community Governance and Land Value Capture.  Let’s be radical, let’s be bold and let’s not just have the status quo – let’s start planning a Super City where we all have an equal say.

When this Super City is finally realised many of the inhabitants haven’t even been born yet.  We have time on our side.  Do we start the conversation now or do we leave it until later when that time will have slipped through our fingers and we will have to do things in a hurry and generally fail the children of tomorrow?  No – let’s join in now and lay down, even literally, the foundation stones.

What is the point of building new first-class hospitals, universities and employment facilities if the quality of life measured outside those outstanding projects is even more poor than today?  Where, in order to get to those very facilities, we have to drive through congested roads, surrounded by more “same old, same old” urban fringe development and soulless developments.

So, let’s not be constrained by the problems of the past.   Instead, let’s seize the opportunity we have and give a thought about what our grandchildren might want out of a Super City and aim high from the start – let’s make sure we do truly have a vision, a Super City, of something that is indeed “of a higher kind”.

Rob Garnham
Rob Garnham – giving entirely his own views from experience as a local Councillor, a director of Mediation in Planning Ltd and a family man committed to the future of Gloucestershire


What’s Discouraging Young Professionals?

What’s Discouraging Young Professionals?
by Freya Ashmore Environmental Consultant in Gloucestershire

I’ve worked as an Environmental Consultant in Gloucestershire since graduating from Durham four years ago. Since then, I’ve lived in Newent, Gloucester and Cheltenham, and have worked in locations around the county.

I’m glad the declining younger population is being taken seriously as part of the Big Conversation; it’s certainly not a sustainable flight path for the county. It doesn’t feel like there’s a thriving population of a similar age to me, compared with other cities/areas. As a young professional, I don’t feel there’s much to incentivise me to stay in the area, which is a sign of a big problem for Gloucestershire.

What’s Discouraging Young Professionals?

While this might be a broad-brush statement, I think that generally young adults are looking for experience and opportunity.

Cities are attractive when they offer experience: culture, entertainment, the cuisine of 50 countries, great bars, live music, museums and galleries, independent shops, character. Compared with Birmingham and Bristol, Gloucester and Cheltenham are missing out on a lot of these things.

Opportunity is equally important, and I don’t just mean the opportunity of immediate employment. A great place to live also surrounds us with people doing things we want to be doing in the future: it’s aspirational. That’s especially important to the type of highly-skilled, highly-motivated young people who are going to bring ideas and energy to the county.

The biggest problem with the net loss of young people is that it’s self-sustaining. The more you lose, the less pull there is for those that remain. Without a concerted and focused effort, I don’t feel confident that the county would make the changes necessary to point us in a new direction.

That’s what’s great about the concept behind Gloucestershire 2050 – careful, integrated, community-focused planning is what’s needed to tackle many of the county’s sticky points.

My Thoughts on the Glos 2050 Ideas

To me, the Super City idea represents much-needed strategic thinking around the growth and interaction of our key urban areas. I’m not quite sure I like the idea of the county becoming a big conurbation (coming from the West Midlands I understand how that turns out), but for better or worse it’s very probable that the gap between Gloucester and Cheltenham will eventually be swallowed up. That can either be bit-by-bit by housing estates until it’s nothing but suburban sprawl, or it can be designed and planned to also offer the experiences and opportunities that make a city great.

That said, I hope plans would be based around the principle that sustainable redevelopment of existing urban areas is preferable to creating new ones. The rejuvenation at Gloucester Docks is a great example of how old structures can be re-used and new life brought back into unlikely areas. It would be wrong to neglect areas of Gloucester and Cheltenham in favour of a new third centre; building a new hub will not automatically make its effects trickle outwards, rather, nice new areas often have the effect of pulling investment from older ones that really need it.

If there were to be a new centre, I’d love to see renewable energy, resource-efficiency, biodiversity and low-carbon strategies take centre stage in its design. Starting from scratch is the perfect opportunity to integrate new technologies and ambitious ideas to create a better environment.

For young professionals specifically, I think the idea of growing a Cyber Park is a great. A developing national centre of excellence would be a big draw for skilled individuals, and it’s a growing industry that many young adults are entering. But to attract and keep young professionals this needs to be paired with the ‘experience’ offering, and also provision of good-quality, genuinely affordable starter homes, something that’s lacking from the county at the moment.

A key need will be greatly improved transport infrastructure. One of the Glos 2050 Ideas is for an international Cotswolds Airport, but I would say that of more immediate concern are the county’s internal roads and public transport. I would like to see world-leading transport infrastructure with grow-in room as part of Glos 2050, both in terms of adequate roads and top-notch public transport. I suspect the benefits would far outweigh the costs of development.

Join In!

This Big Conversation is just what the county needs, and it comes not a moment too soon. I would encourage anyone to get involved in the discussion, particularly younger people, so that their voices are heard and the whole community can feed into building the Gloucestershire they want to see.

Freya Ashmore

What is the Super City proposal really about?

By Stephen Marston
Vice Chancellor, University of Gloucestershire

The Big Conversation about the long term future of Gloucestershire to 2050 is in full swing. Lots of people are having their say, and we hope many more will do so by the deadline of 31 July. One of the most controversial issues is the suggested “Super City” connecting Cheltenham and Gloucester.

It is not for the University to say whether the Super City is a good idea or not. Our role is to facilitate the Big Conversation and encourage everyone to have their say. But from the reactions so far, it is clear that the label Super City is being taken to mean different things by different people. So it is worth standing back a moment to ask where the Super City idea came from and to be clear about what is, and what is not, in the proposal.
As with so much of the Glos2050 agenda, standing still and keeping things exactly as they are is not an option. Things are going to change, demographically, economically, socially, environmentally. We have a choice to either let it all happen and see where we end up. Or to look ahead and plan for these changes, to decide what we want, and agree how we want to manage those changes that are going to happen.

One of those changes that is going to happen is a lot more housing. We know there is a shortage of housing in the county, and particularly suitable, affordable housing. So plans have already been approved for a big increase in housing. The Joint Core Strategy, recently endorsed by Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury provides for 36,000 additional homes by 2031.

Gloucestershire GrowthMap highlighting agreed new housing sites for Gloucestershire

Another of those changes that is going to happen is land for jobs. At present, there is a shortage of good quality office space in parts of the county and the right accommodation for businesses to set up and grow. If we want to reverse the current trend where more young people choose to leave the county than choose to come here, we are going to have to offer more good, rewarding jobs with career prospects. Those jobs will have to be located somewhere.

Over the past 30 years both Gloucester and Cheltenham have grown. The trends noted above mean we should expect that growth to continue. The key question then becomes what is the best way of managing that growth. Shall we do it incrementally, one housing estate at a time, and one business park at a time? Or shall we do it in a planned way that manages the growth to give us better communities in which to live our lives – at work, at home and in our leisure time?

Over the past century, new communities have been established in many parts of the country. So there is now experience to draw on in trying to get long term development planning right. Generally it starts with an overall vision or masterplan for the type of community you want to create in order to give a good quality of life for those who live there. It integrates housing, employment land, and community facilities so that they are not each decided piecemeal. It creates the necessary infrastructure such as roads, transport systems and digital connectivity first. It looks ahead to the type of social, cultural, educational, health and sporting facilities that will be needed to serve the whole population, and where they should go. It designs in parks, open spaces and access to the natural environment.

So the proposed Super City is not about a particular set of buildings lining the A40 from Gloucester to Cheltenham. It is not about reducing the separate identities of Cheltenham and Gloucester. It is not about their merger or amalgamation. It is not just about new housing. Rather, Super City is an invitation to think about how we plan for greater co-operation between these two unique places. It is about thinking through how we use the space between both centres to create and develop shared amenities and facilities that benefit both places, building the co-ordinated transport infrastructure that would better connect Cheltenham and Gloucester, as well as connecting both places with the rest of the county. It is an opportunity to try to control, plan and shape developments that are going to happen anyway in this part of Gloucestershire. And to do so in a way that meets more of our goals for Gloucestershire in 2050.

What is the Gloucestershire 2050 Vision?

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The world is changing fast and we can’t let Gloucestershire get left behind. Big ideas are needed to make the most of our county’s assets whilst retaining young talent and attracting new jobs and investment.

Gloucestershire 2050 is a county-wide conversation to explore ideas and shape our long-term future together. Take part in the Big Conversation until 31 July 2018.

This blog site is a space where different people with an interest in the future of Gloucestershire can share their thoughts on the issues we are going to face over the next 30 years, the ambitions we should aim for to make sure the benefits of growth are shared, and the ideas which might help us tackle those issues and realise our ambitions. More details about the Big Conversation can be found on the web-site or by following our social media feeds, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube.