TAMWORTH Borough Council is seeking views on the future of the Gungate site, as part of major regeneration plans for Tamworth town centre.
The Council have said that a great deal of work has taken place to explore how a significant area of the town centre could be unlocked for regeneration, in a way that is viable, sustainable and contributes to the overall success of Tamworth.
While the boundary of the site is likely to be flexible, it incorporates land to the north and south of Spinning School Lane.
This could include the NCP car park, the Spinning School Lane car park, the Magistrates’ Court, Staffordshire County Council Social Services buildings and the former bingo hall.
In 2018, Tamworth Borough Council bought the piece of land which used to be home to the Gungate Precinct, from private developers. Plans by the developers to regenerate the site never came to fruition and it has been used as a temporary car park ever since.
When it came up for sale, it was felt this represented a good investment opportunity for the town and the chance to finally unlock it for regeneration. The council already owned the Spinning School Lane car park land opposite the police station.
As many of the buildings neighbouring the car parks are now vacant, such as the bingo hall and the police station, the council has been working with the various landowners to consider how the wider area could be regenerated as a whole.
Proposals have now been drawn up which look at potential uses for the land, taking account of market demand, any restrictions to development on the site and the design principles within which we have to operate.
This information is now available on the Tamworth Borough Council website, setting out the broad principles for regeneration.
The town’s residents, businesses and shoppers are being invited to look at the plans and share their views on key aspects of the project, including potential uses, taking into account market demand and the impact of the pandemic, site layout and the size and scale of any potential buildings.
The proposals can be viewed at www.tamworth.gov.uk/consultation together with detailed drawings, artist impressions and 16 survey questions. This will be online for people to take part in until March 1.
Once agreed, the principles will act as a guide for future development on the land.
Feasibility studies have suggested that a mix of uses will be the most sustainable, which could include uses such as housing, retirement living, a leisure centre, workspace, evening leisure and multi-storey car parking.
Retail is not being suggested as a major component of this particular site due to its decline on the high street in recent years and a need to focus on the existing vacant retail space in the main high street areas.
The Gungate regeneration project is separate to the £21.65m Future High Streets Fund award announced recently to transform the heart of the town centre, including St Editha’s Square and the entrance to the Castle Grounds which we reported on in December.
Cllr Jeremy Oates, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Heritage and Growth, said:
“These are really exciting times for Tamworth. We now have the opportunity to regenerate a key town centre site that has been stagnating for many years – but we need to get it right.
“As the buildings around the car park are vacant too, it makes sense to explore opportunities for working with other landowners and developing the site as one.
“Extensive feasibility studies have been carried out to examine in detail what is and isn’t viable, including speaking to potential investors and developers. The resulting proposals set out the basic principles within which that regeneration can take place, to give it the biggest chance of success.
“Obviously the pandemic has changed the situation somewhat so we need to continue to be flexible in our approach, as well as making sure that this site complements regeneration planned for other areas of the town centre.
“Now that we have some parameters around what could potentially be possible, we’d like to get the views of Tamworth residents and businesses, to see what sort of uses and development they would support. I’d encourage people to get involved and have their say.
“We have to acknowledge that town centres have changed. Their decline is being driven by changing consumer habits and the collapse of major high street chains over recent years. That’s why any new development has to be viable, made up of uses that the market can support.
“The most viable uses have come out as things like housing – which would create an immediate town centre community in itself – a possible leisure centre, which would also bring people to the town centre, and car parking (the Gungate Precinct site came with a long-term lease to NCP). It’s all described in the online proposals, so I hope people take an interest and get involved.
“We’ve also just secured the £21.65m from the Future High Streets Fund for a separate project – the Gungate area is another big part of the puzzle.
“These two major projects, in addition to the recently redeveloped Enterprise Quarter and ongoing improvements to Tamworth Castle, all have the potential to help completely transform Tamworth and restore the town centre as the beating heart of the community.”
One of the big questions people often ask with regards to the Town Centre is . “Why can’t we have x, y or z retailer to the town?” Well Tamworth Borough Council have answered this in relation to the Future High Streets fund development. Below is their response:
“Most properties in the town centre are owned by private landlords and the council has no say over them. Even for our own properties, we can’t force certain retailers to come to Tamworth. It is for individual retailers to decide which towns they want to open in, depending on local shopping habits, demand and figures such as average spends per head of the population. What we can do, is create the best possible conditions for smaller, independent businesses and new enterprise, and this is what the bid seeks to address.”