Proposed BMW/MINI Dealership, Cheltenham

A new combined BMW and Mini car dealership on a gateway site to the west of Cheltenham. Height and lighting were identified as key issues.

Jeff Roberts – Architect, Roberts Limbrick Ltd (Chair)
Joyce Clifford – Architect, Quattro Design
Andy Cook – Landscape Architect, Pegasus Design
Toby Coombes – Architect, Coombes Everitt
Charles Cox – Architect, Heath Avery
Mike Davies – Landscape Architect, Davies Landscape Design
David Jones – Town Planner, Evans Jones
Anthony Lewis – Architect, Yiangou Architects
Jon Nettleton – Architect, Blake Architecture


The Planning Consultant outlined the planning background, identifying the sensitive location of the site, within the Green Belt and the status of the extant B1 Planning Approval that was granted at Appeal.

The Client outlined the business requirements.

The Project Architect explained the basis of the design and identified the following drivers:

  • The purpose of the building, which was to sell cars
  • The BMW Franchise, which dictated a ‘modern’ building of a rectilinear form, with lots of glass and that, was efficient and functional.
  • The requirement to accommodate three Marks: BMW, Mini and Motorcycles.
  • The requirement for a shared customer area.
  • The site, in respect of available land and the sloping nature of the ground.
  • The functional requirement for a long rectilinear footprint, which is double fronted with one long side presenting to the A40 and the other long side to the site entrance off Grovefield Way.
  • Car Parking and Car Storage; the need to accommodate a significant number of cars.

The Landscape Architect explained the basis of the landscape proposals. The key factor appeared to be:

  • The treatment of the existing tree screen between the site and the A40.
  • the visual containment of the service vehicle parking area;
  • a minimalist approach to plot landscaping;
  • a more open aspect to Grovefield Way with entrance feature


The comments below should be read in the context of the information that was available to the panel at the presentation.


  • We felt that the presentation did not explain the siting of the building.
  • It was difficult, from the information provided, to easily understand how the building related to the existing site and the extent of the different building levels.
  • We felt that some key views into and from the site were vital.


  • We thought that the concept was good and that, with more development, it could result in a stunning building in a gateway location.
  • We felt that the success of a modern, minimalist design of this sort would rely heavily upon good proportions, meticulous detailing and quality materials.
  • We felt that the design was in danger of being compromised by the extant permission which seemed to be compromising some of the design decisions.
  • We felt that hiding the design behind landscape screening was the wrong approach. The point was made that the existing screening is predominantly Ash and therefore at risk. We felt that possible arguments about landscape screening and the Green Belt could be countered by the light, transparent nature of the building envelope.
  • We found the ‘Mini’ part of the building incongruous and of a lower design standard to that of the much larger, remainder of the building. The reasoning for the raised “Mini” angled plinth is understood from a marketing /branding requirement, however the feature appeared alien in comparison with the clean lines of the main building.

Response to Site

  • The response to the site appeared poor. As the first phase of a larger development site the opportunity exists to design from first principles rather than allowing previous site road layout to rigidly inform the proposed design solution. It seemed evident that the footprint of the building was not arrived at in response to the shape of the site but was predetermined and had then been shoehorned into a site that is confined by a road that does not yet exist. We felt that either other building shapes needed to be explored or that the road needed to be re-aligned to ease the present situation.
  • There was insufficient information to assess how the building would look from views from outside the site. Photo-montages would help to show this.
  • There was also concern about the impact upon the residents of Grovefield Way, but no information to suggest that this had been considered.
  • Lighting is an important aspect that has yet to be addressed. This could enhance the overall design, but could also detract and cause nuisance.


A key part of the Brief was the desire to create a modern, high quality, flagship building. This was something that the panel saw as a great opportunity for Cheltenham, in a gateway position and one that should be embraced, encouraged and that the planning process should help to realise.

The architect acknowledged that the scheme was not yet fully resolved and the panel felt that, whilst it met many functional requirements and generally showed promise, there was still a way to go to lift it to the level of a flagship, gateway building. The panel did however feel, that to achieve its potential, the concept needed the support of the Local Authority to enable it to be developed with confidence rather than the reticence that is evident and that seems to be the result of a lack of planning certainty.

A prominent, well designed and meticulously detailed contemporary building in this location would not only speak volumes about BMW, but also about Cheltenham.