Future High Street Fund FAQs

Q. What consultation has taken place?
A: In 2019, we ran an extensive engagement campaign over seven months called ‘Tamworth…What’s Next?’ asking people for their ideas about the future of the town centre. This was part of an ongoing strategy to ensure the high street thrives amid changing consumer habits and needs. The campaign was promoted several times in the Tamworth Herald, on the Tamworth Borough Council website, on local radio, TV and social media with a ‘reach’ of more than 50,000 people. It included surveys and several workshops in Marmion House with the Leader of the Council. Hundreds of people took part. Additional consultation took place with town centre businesses in September 2020, and this mirrored the themes from the wider public engagement campaign.

Q. How did you come up with these particular proposals?
A. We used themes from the consultation to identify Tamworth town centre’s key challenges:

  • High levels of vacant properties (14% at that time)
  • Reduced footfall
  • Unbalanced offer – above average number of retail units, below average number of homes and office space
  • Limited night time economy

…And to identify some key objectives:

  • Improve the experience for visitors, businesses and shoppers
  • Drive growth
  • Ensure future sustainability.

We then worked with various businesses, town centre landlords and the education sector to put together a bold and ambitious plan with a number of projects which we felt addressed Tamworth people’s main aims of a more diverse town centre, that isn’t reliant on market forces and retail. The plans address skills needs, boost enterprise, increase opportunities for entertainment and leisure and boost promotion of our local heritage.

Q. Why can’t you do something else with the money?
A. When bidding for Government funding, you have to set out what exactly you will spend the money on, based on the criteria for that particular fund.

For the Future High Streets Fund, any proposed interventions had to fall under the categories of:

  • Investment in physical infrastructure; 
  • Acquisition and assembly of land including to support new housing, workspaces and public realm; 
  • Improvements to transport access, traffic flow and circulation in the area; 
  • Supporting change of use including (where appropriate) housing delivery and densification;  
  • Supporting adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology. 

The projects were then subject to rigorous feasibility studies and an innovative partnership approach with other town centre stakeholders. We were hopeful we might get funding to progress one or two of the projects, but are incredibly fortunate to have been awarded the money to deliver all of our ambitions.

Q. Why can’t you bring x, y or z retailer to the town?
A. Most properties in the town centre are owned by private landlords and the council has no say over them. Even for our own properties, we can’t force certain retailers to come to Tamworth. It is for individual retailers to decide which towns they want to open in, depending on local shopping habits, demand and figures such as average spends per head of the population. What we can do, is create the best possible conditions for smaller, independent businesses and new enterprise, and this is what the bid seeks to address.

Q. Why do you want to move the college to the Co-op site?
A. We worked closely with the college to look at options for a new location. The move to the Co-op department store would represent a great opportunity for both the college and the town centre.

For the college:  It is closer to transport links and major car parks, high profile location which makes courses and learning even more accessible, has good amenities on the doorstep for pupils and staff and is in a beautiful setting, next to the historic St Editha’s Church.

For the town: Brings a new community to the heart of the town centre, with guaranteed footfall (day and evening) that is not reliant on other factors or market forces, boost to existing town centre retailers, would make Tamworth town centre a more attractive prospect to businesses looking to relocate from other areas, enables the college to work even more closely with the local economy in terms of addressing skills gaps and creating opportunities for new businesses and entrepreneurs.

Q. What happens next?
A. The proposals are now all subject to contracts being drawn up, design work, planning permissions and other consultation. The funding has to be spent within four years. 

Q. Will this happen before or after the Gungate Redevelopment?
A. Plans to regenerate the Gungate Precinct site were already in motion before the Future High Streets Fund opportunity came along. Tamworth Borough Council acquired the former Gungate Precinct site from private commercial owners in 2018. Since then we have been working with other landowners to see how far regeneration could extend, beyond the parts now owned by the council.

Options for development are currently being explored, with public engagement taking place throughout February.

Both the Gungate redevelopment and the FHSF bid represent an amazing opportunity to transform large parts of the town centre. These projects will be progressed in tandem to ensure they complement each other and the overall vision for the area.

Further Q&As (pdf)