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The wait is now on after town bids for high street funds

Tamworth-town-centreTamworth Borough Council has now submitted its final bid for funding to the Future High Streets Fund in the hope of winning millions of pounds to spend on town centre regeneration.

If successful, the town could be in line to receive an allocation of several million pounds from the £1bn fund which has been made available to ‘renew and reshape town centres’.

The latest submission was the final stage of a long process which saw the council having to submit an Expression of Interest, then a draft business case and finally a full and detailed business case of preferred projects. The final bid incorporates feedback from the Government on the draft business case. The Tamworth application could have been rejected at any point in the process, so its progression to the last round is great news.

Although details of the projects are commercially sensitive, involving public and private sector partnerships, and can therefore not yet be revealed, the plans are completely transformative and would encourage new town centre uses. The overall aim being to protect and support the heart of Tamworth town centre for future generations.

Under the fund criteria, projects have to deliver structural changes to the high street, which could include investment in physical infrastructure, acquisition of land, supporting change of use and adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology.

The Tamworth business case focuses on physical regeneration schemes which move away from traditional town centre uses and look at reducing large vacant retail floor space in favour of community and social benefits. There’s also a focus on enhancing the town’s heritage, bringing empty buildings back into use and improving access between the town and its neighbouring Castle Grounds.

The bidding process was incredibly detailed and had to follow strict Government guidelines. Tamworth was given £150,000 to develop the business case, which was carried out with support from external regeneration experts Aspinall Verdi.

Bids will be scored against a number of criteria and will only be considered successful by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government if they pass all of them.

There are several milestones which must be met within the three main criteria of value for money (50% weighting), strategic fit (20%) and deliverability (30%).

In making their recommendations, the Government investment panel will also take wider considerations into account, including geographic distribution of bids, the spend profile of the fund and other economic factors. An element of co-funding from the public and private sector is also expected for individual bids.

Tamworth is one of 100 shortlisted towns which were chosen to progress their bids for a share of the £1bn after submitting an initial Expression of Interest last year.

Cllr Jeremy Oates, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Heritage and Growth, said: “It’s been a long road to get to this point, involving massive amounts of consultation and research. At the start of this process, we asked members of the public what they want to see from their town centre as part of the ‘Tamworth: What’s Next?’ campaign and used this to form the basis of the next phases of planning. Since then, we’ve spoken to and worked with numerous stakeholders, landowners, businesses and many more. Our external consultants have worked up the ideas and crunched the numbers.

“The projects couldn’t just be a case of smartening up an outdoor space or adding hanging baskets, the Government is looking for change on a large and transformative scale, in a way which recognises the changing role of the town centre and enables it to survive and thrive on the basis of what people want.

“Our bid includes a number of very exciting projects which are focused on creating the right foundations for a town centre that is at the heart of the community.

“We’ve thrown everything at this and have done all we can. It’s now in the hands of the Government and all we can do is wait and hope they like our projects and award us the funding. We know people will be eager to hear the plans, but as the bid involves commercially sensitive proposals and private sector partnerships, we’re not in a position to say more at the moment. Hopefully our bid will be successful and we can get to work on making the changes happen. The Government intends to announce successful bids in the autumn, and if we’re among them, work will begin immediately.

“At the same time, we’re also progressing our plans for the redevelopment of the Gungate Precinct site and will be sharing potential options for its future with members of the public soon. There are a lot of exciting irons in the fire – watch this space!”