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Future High Street Fund Application for Buxton

Background

Earlier this year, the government announced a Future High Street Fund, which is a new initiative, whose aim is to support towns to be 'fit for the future . The funding is to support towns to evolve, so that they have the floorspace they require for retail, office and other business use or residential -and in so doing make the location an attractive place to live and work over the next decade. Each Council can only put forward one town for consideration (unless they have a population in excess of 150,000), in what will be a very highly competitive process. It is anticipated that over 450 applications will be submitted with approximately 50 to be successful. Funding cannot be used to provide retail start-up courses or subsidise business rates, which are set nationally by the Valuation Office.

The funding process involves an initial selection of towns facing the most challenge, with towns putting forward potential solutions. A relatively modest amount of revenue funding will then awarded to help councils work with partners and the private sector in those selected to analyse cost of work and apply for government capital investment which could be in region of £5-10 million to support implementation.

Why Buxton was chosen

In order to qualify for the fund, towns must have a retail vacancy rate higher than the English average. This means that we could only apply for New Mills or Buxton, as all the other towns are much better than average.  In New Mills, we already award a regeneration grant to the Town Council to help address this issue and there was no large scale town centre initiative identified.  It was therefore decided by the Executive/Council in February 2019 to submitted an application focused on Buxton town centre's primary shopping area. This does not mean that we aren't supportive of wider initiatives either in Buxton or elsewhere, its just that to stand the best chance of securing investment, we have focused our application on the part of the town facing the most challenge in line with the fund's criteria.

Focus on Application

Buxton's application aims fundamentally to address the separation between the rather tired and struggling primary shopping area and the prestige and splendour of the heritage architecture of the rest of the town.

We have identified five key challenges:

  1. Disconnect between Georgian heritage/visitor appeal & perception of the town and the lower quality primary shopping zone 
  2. Poor pedestrian entrance between railway station, car parks & former Buxton Water site (new hospital site) to Spring Gardens primary shopping area - and tired pedestrian areas within Spring Gardens
  3. Significant under-use of upper floors above shops on Spring Gardens
  4. Resident dissatisfaction with primary shopping zone & need to balance retail provision/facilities for residents with those aimed at visitors
  5. Low level of start-up and small business growth

Potential identified solutions, which would be subject to business case development, if selected:

  1. Improving pedestrian route to/from railway station and car parking area to increase footfall and gateway appearance
  2. Increasing residential and office use in town centre, especially on upper floors, by introduction of business loans and grant funding for conversion alongside delivery of suitable infrastructure required to attract and retain this kind of use e.g. gigabyte fibre broadband, flexible town centre residential/business parking etc
  3. Support diversification of the Springs & Spring Gardens shopping area to increase leisure, food and drink uses, pop-ups and shared spaces- to upgrade quality, blur separation between Cavendish Arcade/Quadrant and attract new business investment and footfall
  4. Introduce smart parking, electric vehicle charging, cycle interchange, way-marking and increase town centre parking to modernise infrastructure

We propose to work closely with the Growth Hub and East Midlands Chamber to support business start-up and growth and work with key town centre champions, community groups and the private sector to share strong positive communications which not only attract visitors and investors but will also help foster and retain a sense of civic pride.

Consultation

There has been strong support for our application from across all sectors and we have received letters of support from more than 20 business, public sector, voluntary & community stakeholders.

A number of partners and individuals have expressed ideas to improve the town, which we welcome as part of our continued dialogue. Where these fall outside of what this initiative can fund, they have not been included. This does not imply that we are not supportive of these ideas. The application is not linked to the introduction of any Business Improvement District (BID) proposal, as advocated by Vision Buxton.  

What happened next?

The application was submitted at the end of March and on 12th July 2019, it was announced that Buxton was one of just 50 towns successfully awarded the funding. 

As a successful applicant, we will work with the government's newly appointed 'town centre task force' to help further develop ideas and we propose to work closely with our partners across public, community, voluntary and private sectors who serve the town to further develop ideas, and assess viability and cost of works in order that we can present a strong case for the larger capital money which will be on offer. 

Contact regeneration team for further information.