Shropshire Star

Town funding could be 'catalyst for change' in Oswestry

A bid for funding to Oswestry town centre through work on its historic buildings is a great opportunity, according to a senior councillor.

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Oswestry town centre

Oswestry’s bid for funding to become a High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) is expected to be backed by Shropshire Council’s cabinet next week,

And Councillor Steve Charmley, deputy council leader and member for Whittington, said he believes it could be a “catalyst for change” with empty buildings on his radar.

It was put forward as part of a £675 million government scheme to boost high streets in the country.

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However, Oswestry’s bid for funding is one of the lowest in the country – and Historic England has asked the council to help them scale it up.

Oswestry Town Council and Oswestry BID could be asked to find an extra £350,000 on top of the £150,000 already committed to the match-funded scheme.

The cabinet is being asked to back the scheme and submit the plans to the government by the December 3 deadline.

Councillor Charmley said: “I attended a talk about this and it seems very positive. They showed us an example of work that had happened in a town in Derby and they had made the shop fronts all similar and really tidied them up.

“I think it could be a real catalyst for change in Oswestry and if we can get this together it can only be positive.

“We are already looking at tackling empty shops in the town and there are certain ones which have turned into a bit of a problem, like the old B-Wise building.


“But this could really help with the kind of work and it could be a big boost for the town. The plans could really put us on the map.”

Mark Barrow, the council’s director of place, said he was also pleased with the plans.

In a report to cabinet, he said: “Historic England formally announced that Oswestry was one of 69 high streets across England that had successfully passed to the next, non-competitive, programme development stage.

“Cabinet approval is therefore sought for delegated authority for officers to work with the scheme’s core partners (Oswestry Town Council and Oswestry BID) to develop a full programme submission.

“The Oswestry zone represents a significant opportunity for Shropshire Council to secure a share of the £95 million that Historic England has been allocated to support transformational projects to support historic towns and high streets.

“This is aligned with the council’s own aspirations for economic growth and equally recognising both similar and different challenges and opportunities facing Shropshire’s diverse market towns and high streets within them.

“At this stage positive negotiations are ongoing amongst the Oswestry partners.”

He added: “There is a strong indication that Oswestry Town Council would be willing to offer a substantial proportion of the £150,000 required for match funding over four years to make up the physical interventions grants programme.”

Mr Barrow added: “The feedback from Historic England has been that the Oswestry HSHAZ is one of the lowest value bids in the country.

“Given the additional funding Historic England has secured for the HSHAZ initiative, this has resulted in them asking the scheme partners to consider how they could upscale the physical interventions, the only bid in the country to have been asked to consider this.

“This could potentially be up to £500,000 from Historic England which would require £500,000 match from Oswestry’s partners therefore giving a £1 million physical interventions grant amount.

“This would mean that the Oswestry HSHAZ partners would need to find any additional match funding beyond the initial total £150,000 they had indicated they could commit.

“This would, however, ensure that the HSHAZ scheme has a much greater impact.”