The Oswestry High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme is transforming rundown buildings and shopfronts to revitalise the market town, its historic character and bustling high street.
In addition, the project is supporting local traders and businesses during times of economic recovery and future growth, following uncertain times for retail and hospitality sectors during the pandemic.
The scheme, which has received funding from Historic England, Oswestry Town Council and Shropshire Council, is being delivered through the Future Oswestry partnership between Shropshire Council, Oswestry Town Council and Oswestry Business Improvement District. It's aim is to establish the town as an even better place for people to live, work, shop and visit.
It has enabled Linda Clark, owner and manager of Fat Rabbit café in Bailey Street to draw a four-year journey of renovations to a close. Linda purchased 20 Church Street, before the pandemic, selling her house and moving in above the shop with hopes to relocate the plant-based café onto Church Street.
Once the pandemic hit, she had to adapt quickly to changing consumer behaviour, and, extended the garden and outdoor seating at Fat Rabbit in Bailey Street and apply for grant funding through the scheme to renovate 20 Church Street and lease to commercial tenants.
“The pandemic meant I had to reconfigure my plans quickly," she said.
"The original idea was to move from Bailey Street to Church Street, but that no longer made sense. You know what it’s like, if you think something’s going to cost £300 it will cost £1,200. And that’s what it was like with every single aspect.
"Thankfully, I heard from Oswestry BID that there was a grant scheme opportunity of help to repurpose high street shopfronts, which was a real glimmer of hope and would mean the project could be completed much quicker than if I were to fund it myself. Thanks to the grant, I’ve now got potential tenants lined up who’ve been in business for 20 to 30 years and they’re looking to locate on the high street."
Similarly, Designs in Mind on Cross Street is a social enterprise which supports people who are living with mental health challenges, and provides a creative studio space for people to visit, socialise and enjoy. The venue is part of a wider network of community mental health support and is home to a working studio and shop where art pieces are displayed and sold.
It is now undergoing a shopfront transformation and works will be complete this autumn.
A spokesperson from Designs in Mind said: "Funding from the Heritage Action Zone scheme has enabled us to relocate to a much better position in the town centre.
"Originally we were tucked away down an alleyway, and now have a front entrance on the high street.
"The new space will allow us to actively engage in local events, and the physical shop window helps spread the word about Designs in Mind and the wonderful work we undertake.
"Our new space is one where people can be heard and talk to others in times of need. Ultimately, it will help us with wider objectives to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and without the funding provided, we would not have been able to achieve this."