Shrewsbury and Wellington share £7 million boost for major projects - including Pride Hill centre revamp
More than £5 million has been given to Shropshire Council to transform one of its Shrewsbury shopping centres, while more than £2m has also been awarded to Wellington for a major project which will create healthcare and residential units.
Shropshire Council is getting £5,020,000 from the government's 'Getting Building fund', which will be used by the authority to redevelop the Pride Hill Shopping Centre.
The Marches LEP, which has helped secure the funding, said the Pride Hill project would create 100 jobs and a further 150 construction jobs.
In recent weeks there has been speculation the Pride Hill Centre could house a cinema, although the council would not be drawn on specifics of potential uses.
But the government's own award of the £5,020,000, details the council's ambitions to secure a 'leisure anchor' for the top floor of the centre, with 'cultural and civic' uses on the lower floors.
The announcement suggests that the centre could also house council services.
It comes after some independent traders voiced anger last week at being told they would have to move from their Pride Hill Centre locations, with the offer of a space in a new area being set up in the former QVC shop in the Darwin Centre.
The government award is for 'Pride Hill remodelling', and is part of the council's long-term ambitions for the centre of the town.
Shropshire Council bought the shopping centres for £51m in 2018, but has faced criticism after their value plummeted to £17.5m in March this year.
The government announcement said: "The council acquired Pride Hill Shopping Centre in 2018 with the primary purpose of supporting the economic growth and regeneration of Shrewsbury town centre.
"As part of a place shaping and long term investment strategy, repurposing of the asset will secure a vibrant and sustainable future which contributes positively to Shrewsbury as a quality destination for its residents and visitors alike.
"Despite the current economic climate and Covid-19 implications, the council is securing a leisure anchor use for the building with complementary cultural and civic uses on lower floors.
"Enabling works, including securing vacant possession and partial stripping out of the centre, are required in any event to repurpose the building. Remodelling works to the upper floor (Level 5) can then proceed to accommodate the anchor leisure user."
The government has also awarded £2.38m of the fund to Wellington for work to regenerate the former New College site and surrounding Wrekin Housing Group premises, creating a number of homes.
New College has been identified as a potential hub for new healthcare and supported living services, and the announcement says there is an opportunity to link the development with a Wrekin Housing Trust-owned 1950s maisonette development which needs replacing.
The government announcement said: "Funding would unlock this stalled site delivering new residential units at Glebe Street, supporting the delivery of further residential units at New College and incorporate sustainability in design while also improving walking and cycling routes into Wellington.
"Funding is needed across the sites for additional demolition and clearance, land assembly and enabling works. The scheme delivers a significant number of new homes in a mixed community."
The announcement has been welcomed by Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard who said: "This is a major boost for our local economy. I have been lobbying the Government for new funding to kick-start the regeneration of the New College site, so I am absolutely delighted that Wellington will benefit from the Getting Building Fund.
"This investment will replace and renew ageing developments and deliver a significant number of new homes close to Wellington High Street. Strong walking and cycling links between the new developments and the centre of Wellington will generate more footfall for the high street and the historic covered market, protect local jobs and create new business opportunities."
Chair of the Marches LEP, Mandy Thorn MBE DL said the projects were part of £14m across the Marches region.
She said: “This funding will not only help speed up work on existing projects which may have stalled due to coronavirus but will also see the launch of new schemes creating hundreds of homes and jobs.
“We have worked closely with our local authority partners and business boards to secure this £14m, which will also support the training and development of more than 300 new learners through the NMITE investment at Skylon Park and the zero carbon project in Telford.”