THE first phase of a major project to open up and improve the links between Tamworth’s town centre and Ventura Park is due to get underway in the spring.
The Gateways project aims to improve the physical links between the town centre, Ventura Park and the railway station, making the routes more attractive and increasing the number of pedestrians and cyclists using them.
The project is a partnership between Tamworth Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council and has been in the planning stage for the past two years.
Work on the first phase, between Ladybridge and Ventura Park, is due to start in the spring and will include footpath and cycleway resurfacing, installation of new benches, bins, signposts, interpretation boards and lighting.
Work will also be carried out to open up and improve the views to the Castle along Ladybridge for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Gateways project is part of the long-term vision for the regeneration of Tamworth town centre, drawn up by Tamworth Borough Council and its partners. Aims include:
- The creation of a prosperous town centre with a wide range of businesses, retailers and services, alongside the provision of new homes within the town centre
- To encourage independent and niche retailers to move into the town
- To develop and improve on our existing leisure and heritage assets
- To broaden the night time economy and encourage more restaurants
- To improve connections between the town centre and Ventura Park.
The vision has been developed over a number of years and is a long-term project which will continue to grow and develop. It is linked to a series of connected projects which include the physical regeneration of Tamworth town centre, as well as support for businesses to help refocus the town centre (please see attached graphic).
Tamworth Borough Council is only one of the partners involved in the regeneration programme, working with other public sector bodies, the private sector and community groups.
Other projects which are already underway or in the pipeline aimed at helping the town centre to grow and thrive include:
- The development of a Creative Quarter, including major improvements to Tamworth Assembly Rooms, a restaurant in the Carnegie Centre, 15 business incubation units to help establish small and new businesses in the Philip Dix Centre, improvements to the library and the creation of a new square between the library, Assembly Rooms and Carnegie Centre. The ambitious plans for Tamworth Assembly Rooms were approved in September and an application for the business incubation units is expected to be made in the next couple of months.
- The redevelopment of the Spinning School Lane area, to complement the former Gungate precinct scheme.
- Working with the Ankerside Shopping Centre to support and develop the town centre.
- Exploring the opportunity to create a Business Improvement District to include both the town centre and Ventura Park.
- Tamworth Castle submitting bid to Heritage Lottery Fund to upgrade and improve the exhibition on the top floor.
Cllr Steve Claymore, Cabinet member for Economy, said: “Improving Tamworth town centre is a long-term, ongoing project and something to which Tamworth Borough Council is fully committed.
“The first phase of the Gateways project is a huge step forward and will provide long-awaited improvements to the linkages between the town centre and Ventura Park.”
He added: “This sits alongside a wide range of public and private sector regeneration projects, both ongoing and in the pipeline to secure the future of the town centre.
“Tamworth town centre is not dying. It – along with other town centres throughout the country – is changing, as the needs and demands of customers change. The changes in Tamworth town centre are driven by consumer demand, not council policy.
“It is a widely-held – although incorrect – belief that Tamworth Borough Council owns most if not all of the shops in Tamworth town centre, so can set rents as it chooses. We in fact own only 16 premises, mostly in market Street and Church Street. The majority of shops and premises in the town centre are owned by other landlords, and we encourage them to set affordable rents, which many do.
“Similarly with business rates – there have been many letters in the press asking why the council cannot offer rate reductions to certain businesses to encourage them to open in the town centre. National Non-Domestic Rates are set by the government, and are something over which we can have no say – although we do promote national schemes, including Small Business Rate Relief.
“While Tamworth town centre may not be the centre for retail that it once was, it is still the administrative, historical and leisure time centre. There is still a very large amount of economic activity taking place in Tamworth town centre, which we will continue to support and encourage.”