A major milestone has been reached in the multi-million-pound project to transform Tamworth town centre, with the council taking ownership of the flagship building at the heart of the plans.
Tamworth Borough Council now has the keys to the Tamworth Co-operative Society building in St Editha’s Square, ready for it to be given a new lease of life as a vibrant hub of education and enterprise.
The historic shop units on the Colehill side of the site will become a second Tamworth Enterprise Centre, providing affordable office space for businesses, while protecting the building’s heritage.
The large 1960s section at the back will be demolished and replaced with a brand new state-of-the-art home for Tamworth College, part of South Staffordshire College. This move will bring around 1500 students and visitors into the town centre, both for daytime and evening courses. It will enable additional courses to be provided to meet local skills needs, with the added potential for ground floor space to be used for commercial service-based education.
Tamworth Co-operative Society, which is now focusing on its food and funeral divisions, will move to a new home across the street on Colehill.
The society’s headquarters and Bereavement Advice Centre functions will be based in the old Co-op Bank premises in Colehill. The Co-op is hopeful the move will be completed in the spring, and will operate from a temporary base outside the town centre in the meantime.
To read more about the society’s plans, you can find a full statement on the Tamworth Co-operative Society website.
This development represents a key milestone in the Future High Streets Fund project, which saw Tamworth win a massive £21.65m grant from the Government to regenerate the town centre. When combined with funding from external partners, the project will represent total investment of around £40m.
Cllr Jeremy Oates, Leader of Tamworth Borough Council, said: “We’re delighted that our purchase of the Co-operative Society building is now complete. This was a significant milestone and means we can now really get on with the ambitious plans to bring the Co-op site back into life as a hub for education and enterprise.
“The council will maintain the historic frontages of the building on Colehill, which will be turned into modern, affordable office space; something which is desperately needed in the town centre. Our first Enterprise Centre at the Philip Dix Centre has been a huge success from day one. It has always had a full complement of tenants, and often a waiting list.
“This venture will give more businesses the chance to set up and grow, through access to affordable office space and all the advice and support that goes with it, from our business support team.
“The larger more modern part of the building will become home to the new Tamworth College. The college wanted a new location, and this move represents a great opportunity for both the college and the town centre. It will bring a new community to the heart of the town centre with guaranteed footfall, day and night, that is not reliant on other factors or market forces, which will be a real boost for the high street.
“It will also make the town centre a more attractive prospect to businesses looking to relocate, and we are already seeing signs of that as a result of the planned investment. And it means the college will be able to work even more closely with the local economy to address local skills gaps – creating more jobs, business and opportunities all round.
“We can now really crack on with the next phase of the project in terms of progressing the planned refurbishments for the Enterprise Centre section and a complete demolition of the 1960s part of the Co-op building to prepare the ground for a new college.”
Plans for the demolition phase have been submitted to the planning department and should be available on the Tamworth Borough Council website in the coming weeks as part of the formal consultation process.
The overall aim of the Future High Streets Fund project is to restore the town centre as the beating heart of the community and make sure it meets the needs of 21st century shoppers, residents and businesses.
There are five core elements of the project:
- The relocation of Tamworth College, part of South Staffordshire College, to a new building on the site of the Tamworth Co-operative Society department store
- Refurbishment of the locally-listed part of the same building (the Colehill frontages) into a new enterprise centre for small businesses
- Refurbishment and improvements to Middle Entry including a new semi-permanent structure for start-ups and niche businesses
- The transformation of St Editha’s Square into a multi-purpose outdoor space
- An improved entrance between the town centre and the Castle Grounds by enhancing the Castle Gatehouse area and adjoining Market Street properties.
The bid to the Future High Streets Fund was put together in partnership with landlords, businesses and organisations, following months of public engagement with residents, detailed research and feasibility studies.
Projects submitted for funding had to follow very strict criteria; to deliver structural changes to the high street, which could include investment in physical infrastructure, acquisition of land, supporting change of use and adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology.
A total of 72 towns successfully bid for a share of up to £830m available and Tamworth was one of only 15 to be given the full amount that was bid for, and received the fourth highest award overall, which was based on the strength of the projects submitted.
More details about the plans to transform Tamworth, including FAQs and all news announcements to date, can be read on a dedicated project page at https://transforming.tamworth.gov.uk/fhsf.