THE EAGLE HAS LANDED
After the initial Compulsory Purchase Order in the 1950s in Arle and Hesters Way, building of houses, schools and shops went ahead but not all the land purchased was utilised at once. A large section was saved for future development, notably Arle Farm.
In 1985 Eagle Star (now Zurich Financial Services) put forward plans for a new computer centre in Hayden Road, with the prospect of providing 300 jobs. This was given the go ahead in a secret meeting of the Council. The then General Manager, Ian Dunbar, was somewhat reticent at first, but Councillor Guy Liddell, Chairman of Cheltenham District Development Committee, fully supported this existing scheme.
Arle Farm had been set aside for housing but Councillor Liddell said, 'the site we are offering Eagle Star is a buffer zone and the plan would fit in nicely with the area'. Not all Councillors were supportive of this scheme. Councillor Harry Turbyfield, whose Hesters Way ward included Arle Farm, cast doubts over the number of jobs likely to be created, accused Councillor Liddell of reneging on council promises to residents in the haste to get Eagle Star there, and added that other amenities, i.e. shops, car park and storage had been planned for the site.
Cheltenham's Policy and Finance Committee had agreed to the new complex despite secrecy over how many jobs it would actually bring to the area. The late Councillor and MP, Charles Irving declared that the figures would have to be made perfectly clear before he agreed to the company having land at Arle Farm at the lower price than could be obtained for housing.
After a public meeting, families in the area backed the Eagle Star plans and were also to have some say in influencing the development of the rest of the area.
However, with all the new developments, fears were expressed at the likely increase in traffic. Both Swindon Parish Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council objected to the plan and wanted to see Hayden Road properly improved to enable it to cope with the extra traffic, before the complex was built.
Despite all these objections, the scheme went ahead. The site was bought in June 1986 from Cheltenham Borough Council at a price of £1 million for just over 10 acres. Even allowing for inflation, this constitutes a somewhat different price than that paid in the Compulsory Purchase Order (see Volume 2).
The architects were Stone Tomms, based in London, who devised the futuristic building, and construction was completed and the building occupied by 1988. The architecture was described as exciting and adventurous, (alternatively as Legoland).
Eagle Star Building
The building was 96,000 sq. ft. in area, most of which housed mainframe computers. The building also provided office area for their Group Services Company, which included departments for Fleet Management, Premises Management, Finance, Telecommunications and Purchasing to support the UKISA Group.
The number of staff housed in the building at full capacity was 400. To ease traffic flow, a new link road was built connecting Hayden Road with Tewkesbury Road, this carried out with Eagle Star's co-operation.
The final touch in the actual building took place in December 1986 with the usual 'topping out' ceremony, but instead of the spray of yew placed at the highest point of the completed structure to ward off evil spirits, it was decided to be seasonal and to use a Christmas tree instead.
Perhaps they should have stuck with tradition, for in 1997 the site was transferred to British American Financial Services, and then in 1998 to Zurich Financial Services. It was demolished in 2001.