High streets across the country are facing hard times, the growth of supermarkets selling all kinds of items, easy access to online sales and individuals less interested in a career in retail has meant the high streets have struggled.
Over the past few years I have been supporting the regeneration of our town centre. Whether it is bidding for grants, pushing Tamworth forward for pilot projects or bringing forward resident and business ideas to Government, we are now starting to see the changes.
Here's a little insight of what is to come...
From October the old coop will be stripped out and renovated. It has lots of old features inside but some of them are perhaps a bit too old (like the toilets!) this is to become a new enterprise centre style space for new businesses to set up offices as they begin to grow.
Following that work the demolition of the larger coop building will begin. This building will eventually become the college – interestingly the smaller road it is on by the Church Hall is actually called College Lane!
This work should help bring new faces and footfall to the town centre. It will also make it much easier for businesses to work directly with the college to build skills for the future and develop clearer pathways from exams and qualifications to local jobs.
St Editha’s Square is still going to see some renovation with the white cover disappearing. The Square will remain a place for events to take place and will stay open to the market.
You may have seen the stalls outside of Middle Entry begin to move – most have moved inside Middle Entry!
After all have relocated, planners will be diving in and taking a look at the space to see what can be done to improve the area around Middle Entry. At the moment it’s likely to be opened up, perhaps with a covered area.
The aim is to link the new college to the town centre reducing some of the bottlenecks that people encounter on the approach to Middle Entry. Middle Entry itself is also under review, it may well be opened up a little more - restoring the view of St Editha's Church.
The Nationwide building is moving across the road to the old ‘Peel Café’ (it’s listed outside as a Bridal Shop) next to the Tamworth Toolbox. Planners are already working on how they can keep the older look of the building whilst making it secure enough for a working bank. Demolishing the Nationwide building will open up the Castle a bit more and more of the old Castle Walls will be able to be seen.
The Council plan to widen the bridge into the Castle Grounds, again to help reduce town centre bottlenecks, particularly on event days. All if this work should be funded under the already secured Future High Street fund and funds set aside by the Council and private backers.
The other older looking buildings nearby cannot be moved because they are listed. They can’t really get tenants at the moment because they’re also quite unsafe. This is why they are currently empty. So some of the plans for the future - Tamworth Council are bidding for additional funding, I am supporting this bid. Hopefully if funded, these buildings will be fixed up inside so they can safely be used as retail space again, whilst maintaining the older frontages.
There is also an aim to get to work on the Gungate Car Park. Whilst ideas are still being discussed, a leisure and housing offer is the most likely change over retail. There has also been discussions on a multi-storey car park. There are some considerations which need to be fully examined first - the traffic flow, the Almshouses (which will be staying!) and that the Police Station which has been bought privately, is likely to be turned into apartments (not approved yet) - so this may need to be factored into future town centre plans.
Thoughts are also being given to how the area around the Assembly Rooms can be adjusted. Presently the old bus and taxi interchange is not well used but Corporation Street is incredibly busy. There may be some scope to change this area to better link up the town and provide more accessible amenities.
I will continue banging the drum for Tamworth with Government Ministers and hope we can secure further funding to regenerate our town centre.