Ambitious plans to regenerate Tamworth town centre with the development of a new Creative Quarter have taken a giant leap forward, with the announcement that the project has been awarded £2.95 million in grant funding.
The funding has been awarded by central government from the Single Local Growth Fund, which makes billions available nationally to support projects that will create jobs and help to boost the local economy.
The £5.5million project, led by Tamworth Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council, should be completed by 2017. It will see the refurbishment of 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.
The Creative Quarter project will complement the wider regeneration of Tamworth, notably the soon to begin Gateways project and the Gungate area where there are revised proposals for the former Gungate shopping centre. The project will create around 100 jobs and attract in additional private investment.
The announcement that Tamworth has secured the funding means that the first stage in the development of the Creative Quarter, the restoration and improvement of Tamworth Assembly Rooms, is much more certain, but still subject to additional funding being committed from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
An earlier bid to the Single Local Growth Fund was turned down in July last year, putting the project on hold.
The securing of the £2.95m is a huge step forward for the Creative Quarter bid and the redevelopment of Tamworth Assembly Rooms, as it is the key to unlocking further funding. It is proposed that Tamworth Borough Council will allocate a total of £900,000 in match funding, with Staffordshire County Council contributing £550,000 and £900,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. If the funding bids are successful, work is expected to start in early 2016.
The first phase of the project is the conservation, redevelopment and improvement of the 125-year-old Tamworth Assembly Rooms, which was approved by Tamworth Borough Council’s planning committee in September last year.
The improvements include the creation of a café bar and exhibition space, a multi-use area, studios, restoration and improvement of existing windows, a new box office and new glazed double doors at the front of the building to help open up the front façade.
There will also be the addition of a striking extension to the building, a large translucent glass box on the side currently occupied by the car park, to be used as a studio space and which will be lit up at night.
The aim of the project is not only to restore and conserve the 125-year-old building but also to improve access to visitors and make Tamworth Assembly Rooms a more attractive venue.
The project will also allow the building to be used to its full potential, with a café area open throughout the day and a studio space providing a more flexible space to complement the existing auditorium.
The windows – which have been covered over for a number of years, will be opened up to allow natural light into the auditorium, and the front doors will be replaced with glass to open up the front of the building and make it more welcoming.
Cllr Steve Claymore, Cabinet member for Economy & Education, said, “Everyone involved with this project is delighted by the news that we have secured £2.95 million from the Single Local Growth Fund for the Creative Quarter project and the redevelopment of Tamworth Assembly Rooms.”
He added, “This announcement is a major step forward, as it will now make it much easier for us to gain the additional funding. This project is a prime example of how Tamworth Borough Council works with other partners to improve the town and build on all the great things it already has to offer.
“Using the Government’s own estimates, we believe the Creative Quarter project could support the wider town centre to the tune of £10m to £13m in additional economic value.
“This project will 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 and it will also allow us to secure the future of Tamworth Assembly Rooms, to ensure that it continues to welcome and serve audiences for generations to come.”
The development of the Creative Quarter is just one of the projects in the long-term vision for the regeneration of Tamworth town centre.
Other projects, which are already underway or in the pipeline aimed at helping the town centre to grow and thrive include:
- The Gateways project, to open up and improve links between the town centre and Ventura Park, as well as encouraging a wide range of businesses, retailers and services into the town centre
- 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 Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said, “Staffordshire has stepped up to the challenge and is on a roll in terms of our delivery of projects which will have a major impact on long-term economic growth and job creation. Today’s announcement means people in Tamworth and the surrounding areas can look forward to regeneration and greater employment and leisure opportunities.
“We have worked closely with Tamworth Borough Council to make this happen and we look forward to seeing it get off the ground. The expansion of our Growth Deal is further recognition by the Government of our commitment to create employment and our ability to get the job done where major projects are concerned.”
Chair of the Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, David Frost, said, “This is excellent news and enables us to build on our substantial Growth Deal announced last year. It again demonstrates the Government’s confidence in our ability to deliver major job-creating projects on time and on budget.
“The first Growth Deal-funded project is already underway with two more to follow in the coming months. We set an ambitious job creation target but we know these developments will attract significant further investment and support us in achieving it.”