Full steam ahead as town bids for share of Future High Streets Fund

It’s full steam ahead as Tamworth Borough Council begins work on progressing its application for town centre funding from the Future High Streets Fund.

At the end of last month, it was revealed that the town has made it through to the next stage in bidding for a share of £1billion government funding to ‘renew and reshape town centres’.

The initial ‘Expression of Interest’ submitted by the council earlier this year had to state why Tamworth town centre should be considered, and give an idea of the projects that could be delivered with the funding. As a result of that application, Tamworth was one of 50 areas chosen as part of a recently announced extension to the Future High Streets Fund, which doubled the number of shortlisted towns and increased the pot of available funding. It means there are now 100 towns across the country bidding for a share of £1billion.

For the second phase of the bidding process, the council now has to expand on that initial Expression of Interest by developing a full, detailed business case for cash and what it would be spent on.

Tamworth Borough Council will be given a grant of up to £150,000 to develop the ideas previously submitted into a full capital investment business case. While we are waiting for further communication from the government as to how much grant we will receive for this stage, teams at the council are now exploring options for how the business case will be put together.

We will also be allocated a delivery manager from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government who will support the council through the process.

Criteria for what the funding can be spent on is very strict and is specifically to ‘renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability’.

The funding must deliver structural changes to the high street under the following themes:

  • Investment in physical infrastructure
  • Acquisition and assembly of land, including improvements to the public realm
  • Supporting change of use including (where appropriate) housing delivery and densification
  • Supporting adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology

Tamworth Borough Council’s Expression of Interest put forward a number of ideas which will now be explored further as part of the second phase of the Future High Streets Fund. These focussed on physical regeneration schemes to bring empty buildings back into mixed use with a focus on showcasing the heritage of the town, enhancements to parts of the public realm areas of the town centre and schemes to create more residential units.

Cllr Jeremy Oates, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Heritage and Growth, said: “It’s great news that we have made it through to the next round of the Future High Streets Fund as part of an extension to the scheme. But now the real hard work starts. Preparing the business case is not going to be easy. It’s a very strict process which has to comply with various government guidelines. We will have to go into great depth to evidence, qualify and quantify our proposals, including demonstrating the strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management case.

“The regeneration of Tamworth town centre is a key priority and we have been seeking people’s views about how it should be developed to ensure it survives and thrives into the future. We’re extremely grateful to the hundreds of residents, visitors and businesses who have taken part in our Tamworth…What’s Next? consultation, as we used this feedback to supplement our Expression of Interest. We will need further support from the community, and in particular town centre businesses, as we progress our plans as this has to be a team effort.

“This is our town and we all need to pull together to fight for its future. This is a great step in the right direction and we have to really grab this opportunity and throw everything at it. At the same time, we are progressing plans for the redevelopment of the Gungate precinct site which the council purchased last year. We are currently at the stage of identifying and exploring possible uses for the site. So there are promising plans afoot and hopefully we will start to see some exciting changes in the coming years.

“We will update people further when we know more about the Future High Streets Fund and in the meantime, watch this space.”

Tamworth Borough Council expects to find out how much grant it has been awarded to develop a business case sometime this month. A draft business case must be submitted by January with the final plan to be submitted by April 30, 2020. It remains a competitive process and not all bids will succeed in ultimately gaining funding for their projects.

Bids will be scored and ranked against a number of ‘gateway’ criteria and will only be considered by the MHCLG if they pass all of them. There are several milestones which must be met within the three main criteria of value for money (50% weighting), strategic fit (20%) and deliverability (30%).

In making their recommendations, the investment panel will also take wider considerations into account, including geographic distribution of bids, the spend profile of the fund and other economic factors. An element of co-funding from the public and private sector is also expected for individual bids.

Towns from this region through to the second phase alongside Tamworth include Nuneaton town centre, Erdington, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Derby City Centre, Coalville, Nottingham City Centre and Stafford.

Successful bids are due to be announced in the autumn next year.

For more information about Tamworth town centre regeneration, visit www.tamworth.gov.uk/tamworth-whats-next.

 More information about the Future High Streets Fund and bidding criteria is available online.