THE Prince of Wales officially opened the long-awaited £850,000 Goods Shed arts centre in Tetbury this afternoon, with more than 100 residents lining the street outside.

HRH was welcomed to the Gumstool Hill site by town mayor Stephen Hirst to the sounds of the Avening Silver Band.

The new centre, housed in a renovated railway building, was commissioned by the town council in partnership with Tetbury Rail Lands Regeneration Trust (TRLRT), which will run the centre.

The town council acquired the building, along with 3.5 acres of former railway land in 1997, with the trust originally set up to raise funding and support development of the site.

Over the intervening years, the former marshalling yard became a free long-stay car park, the old stock market was converted into The John Philips Millennium Green and three miles of the former track bed became a linear town to country park.

The Shed is the last remaining building from the local railway era, with renovation work having begun last summer.

It includes an 184-seat auditorium with a retractable seating system, an outside performance space, an office and a green room, as well as a kitchen and toilets.

Prince Charles, who lives at nearby Highgrove House, was shown around the centre, meeting many donors, trustees and builders involved in the project, as well as enjoying the works of local artists, including painter Nicola Clark, which were on display.

During a short speech, Cllr Hirst said: “Your Royal Highness was part of an early discussion group [TRLRT] sat around the fire in The Royal Oak to discuss the future of this particular part of Tetbury.

"Since that time, the popular walk from Wiltshire Bridge to Preston Park was created and with the help of Cotswold District Council, the all-day free long-stay carpark was built.

"The final piece of the jigsaw, the jewel in the crown, The Goods Shed has now been completed.

“What a wonderful conversion, from a redundant goods shed to the magnificent building that we are all now part of.

“The Goods Shed will become the foundation for a vibrant centre that will provide the population of Tetbury and South Gloucestershire with a new arts centre, staging many forms of live entertainment, exhibitions and cinema.

“A new valuable ingredient in the cultural mix of the area.

"A wonderful asset, attracting visitors to our town and providing our residents with new vistas of entertainment.”

Will Cook, chairman of TRLRT, said the trust is now 'working really hard' to plan events to be held at the site in 2017, adding: “It’s full steam ahead!”

HRH, prior to unveiling a plaque to mark his visit, said: “There are one or two of you in the room that will remember those meetings 20 years ago, and it just shows you should never give up on a vision, and you’ve been so wonderful in pursuing it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as Tetbury continues to grow I think it is so important to enhance the buildings in the town, and to have excellent facilities for everyone, and retain that very important sense of community.

“I’m sure The Goods Shed will do all of those things.

“For what it’s worth, I’ve always believed that old industrial buildings can play an enormously important part in the life of an historic town, particularly when we find new uses for them.

"And there are wonderful examples now all over the country, so it really is rather marvellous to have one here on our own doorstep.”

The Great Western Railway branch line from Kemble to Tetbury originally opened on December 2, 1889.

It was a seven and a half mile long single track that ran from Kemble railway station on the Great Western Railway's Golden Valley Line to Tetbury.

The line ran increasingly quietly for seven decades and was finally closed on April 4, 1964.

The last train was a team-hauled special on April 5, 1964 organised by the Gloucester Railway Society.