TAMWORTH is going for gold in the search to find the best high streets in Britain after being voted a runner up in last year’s Great British High Street contest.
Following a successful campaign in 2015, Tamworth has entered the competition again with the hope of building on the momentum gained to highlight ongoing efforts to revitalise the town centre.
Last year’s bid saw Tamworth making it to the final three in the ‘Best Town Centre’ category before being pipped to the post by Rotherham. Tamworth was the only West Midlands town to make it to the shortlist and attracted plenty of publicity throughout the competition, even receiving a letter of congratulations from then Prime Minister David Cameron.
It also helped to galvanise the community with many businesses and local people getting involved to promote Tamworth’s positive features, which helped attract votes for the town’s campaign.
This year’s application focuses on the next phase of an ongoing long-term vision to improve and revitalise the town. This includes the ambitious £6.1million plans to build a new Enterprise Quarter in the heart of the town centre, complete with a newly refurbished and extended Tamworth Assembly Rooms, the transformation of the Philip Dix Centre into a Business and Enterprise Centre, the redevelopment of the Carnegie Centre as a restaurant and improvements to the library and surrounding area to create a new cultural hub.
The project – a partnership initiative led by Tamworth Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council and part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund – is expected to create around 100 jobs and attract additional private investment.
The application also cites the new Art in Unusual Spaces project which has been made possible thanks to a £68,000 grant from Arts Council England. It follows on from last year’s successful I Am Tamworth project and will aim to increase access and participation to the arts, with a number of events lined up for the town centre.
Other initiatives highlighted include phase 2 of the Gateways Project which is improving the physical links between Tamworth Railway Station and the town centre; the new Community Together CIC Hub which has opened in the Castle Grounds Activity Centre delivering a variety of new activities, clubs and support groups to the community; a £900,000 sustainable transport scheme to develop new walking and cycling routes and encourage more people to use them; a new bid by Tamworth Castle to create a permanent Saxon exhibition on the top floor of the ancient monument, together with the development of a Saxon Trail around the town, and an ongoing programme of major events in the town.
Last year’s Great British High Street competition had 230 entrants and attracted more than 200,000 public votes, with Bishy Road in York, a former finalist, crowned Britain’s best overall.
This year, the stakes are even higher with new categories, new prizes – including the chance to win up to £10,000 for each category winner – and a record-breaking 900 entries.
Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Regeneration, Cllr Steve Claymore, said: “This was a great competition to be a part of last year and it really helped to put Tamworth on the map. It also instigated a real joined up effort and coming together of the community to highlight the town’s many positive attributes. It also got businesses thinking about how they could promote themselves better and take advantage of the national exposure the competition offered.
“The work that was being undertaken to breathe new life into the town centre is by no means over, and, if anything, it’s only really just beginning, so we thought we should show this off by entering the competition again to see if we can do even better this time.
“Either way, it’s a great event to be part of and I hope we get everyone coming together for the mutual benefit of the town again.”
High Streets Minister Andrew Percy said: “Our high streets are the life and soul of towns, villages and cities across the country and the record number of competition entries this year is proof of their continued importance to local life. I want to wish all who’ve entered the very best of luck.”
Now in its third year, the competition celebrates the great work that is being done to revive, adapt and diversify the nation’s high streets. Winners in each of the categories get a share of a prize pot worth £100,000, which includes expert training from Google’s digital taskforce for shops, bars and restaurants and a trip to Twitter UK’s London office to further boost their social media skills.
The top 3 shortlisted in each category will be announced in October. They will then go through to a public online vote and places will be visited by the Future High Streets Forum judging panel made up of industry leaders from across retail, property and business.
The Great British High Street competition is run by the Department for Communities and Local Government and sponsored by the Post Office, Holland & Barratt, Boots UK, Google UK, Marks & Spencer, Wilko, the British Council of Shopping Centres and Ellandi.