The temporary setback has been met with ‘disappointment’ from a leading borough councillor – but also with determination to continue with the project. The £3m bid was made to the Single Local Growth Fund, which supports projects that will create jobs and help to improve local economies.
Cllr Steve Claymore, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said, “It was hugely disappointing to receive the news, as our plans for the Creative Quarter are absolutely ideal for this type of funding. Using the Government’s own estimates, we believe the project could support the wider town centre to the tune of £10m to £13m in additional economic value.
“This project can have a major positive impact on our town centre for businesses, visitors and residents by encouraging new and small businesses to operate in the town centre and encouraging additional visitors.
“However I want to stress this does not in any way mean the project has come to a standstill. There is still a range of other funding opportunities available, which we will be pursuing, and we will continue to work with Staffordshire County Council to help make this project a reality. However, it does mean the project will be delayed by at least six months.
“A planning application for improvements to the Assembly Rooms is set to be heard later this month. If approved, this should help make other funding options easier to secure. Other planning applications for the restaurant, library and public space element of the Creative Quarter project will come forward over the next few months.”
The Single Local Growth Fund bid of £3m was primarily to improve Tamworth Assembly Rooms (£2m), but also contributed to the overall cost of the Creative Quarter projects (£1m).
The Creative Quarter proposal includes plans to improve the theatre, develop a restaurant based in the Carnegie Centre, develop 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 overall Creative Quarter costs are around £4.6m, and other funding from the Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund are needed for the project to go ahead.
The major external funder for the Assembly Rooms element of the Creative Quarter – the Heritage Lottery Fund – has offered the Council a six-month window in which to secure additional external funding, as well as the option of negotiating with them to potentially reduce the scale of the Assembly Rooms projects to fit the available match funding.
This means that the application for Heritage Lottery Funding will now be put on hold for six months while other opportunities are explored.
The planning application for works to the Assembly Rooms (ref: 0203/2014) can be seen on the council’s website www.tamworth.gov.uk, under planning applications. The proposed improvements include a café bar, exhibition space, a multi-use area, studios, restoration and improvement of existing windows, a new box office, a rear extension and new glazed double doors at the front of the building to help open up the front façade.