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Future High Street Fund Application for Cheadle

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 them 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 District 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.

The funding process involves an initial selection for towns facing the most challenge, with details of potential solutions - with some revenue funding then awarded to help councils work with partners and the private sector in the town to identify viable solutions and business case for capital investment over a period of around 6-9 months, and an invitation to then bid for capital funding of potentially £5-10m.

Why Cheadle 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 not apply for Leek.

Cheadle has a higher shop vacancy rate than Biddulph and also has seen very little investment by either the public or private sector in the town centre over the last decade. It was therefore decided by Cabinet in February 2019 to submit an application focused on Cheadle. This does not mean that we aren't supportive of wider initiatives across the District or in other towns, its just that to stand the best chance of securing investment, we have focused our application on the town facing the most challenge in line with the fund's criteria.

Focus of Application

The application requires partners to identify the principle challenges the town faces   - and then give potential solutions which will be explored if selected. 

Cheadle's application aims to tackle six challenges, which have been identified by a range of partners and stakeholders:

  • High retail vacancy level
  • Poor quality public realm, with some poor shop frontages and some poor quality retailers
  • Lack of micro-business incubation and office accommodation (the Daisybank Business centre has shown how much pent up demand)
  • Lack of house building especially in town centre and re-sales in the wider area resulting in low spend in the town centre by householders (and lack of housing which will attract the kind of skilled workers that JCB and others require over the longer term)
  • Road, transport  and parking infrastructure issues
  • Lack of business support for retailers(and low penetration of business services to micro businesses)

Potential solutions, which would be explored if invited to full application

1.Creation of a quality but smaller 'core' to the town centre

  • working with property owners and businesses to diversify the high street, find new uses for empty/underused buildings and provide grant/loan funding for improvements and business growth. To include funds for both property upgrading and also for businesses to improve facilities for older customers e.g. ramps, café accessible toilets; fibre/gigabyte broadband installation etc. 
  • Potential rate and rent subsidies to encourage new entrepreneurs, shared space and clean micro-manufacturing into the high street.
  • Public realm works to improve the appearance of the town centre alongside introduction of smart parking technologies to permit flexible parking to allow for business employees/residential uses on upper floors

2.Diversify uses outside of new core area

  • working with landowners to diversify units where there is lack of demand in peripheral areas- this could include support to convert to office, housing or community uses as well as adapting land in public ownership. For example, if Tape street car parking were to allow some long stay car parking, then potentially Well Street car parking could be redeveloped for older people's housing/Extra care facilities

3. Transport

  • Taking forward issues identified in transport study to reduce congestion on Ashbourne Road/Tape Street
  • Exploring if new technologies can be introduced to allow more flexible parking times and payment methods which will support rejuvenation of high street  

We propose to work closely with the Growth Hub and Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce 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.

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.

Support for our application

There has been strong support for our application from across all sectors and we have received letters of support from business (JCB, Alton Towers, Klarius, HCA Developments, and commercial property owners) as well as public and voluntary & community stakeholders ( Cheadle Town Council, Team Cheadle, Cheadle Discovery, Support Staffordshire and both the County Council, Health CCG, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce and the Local Enterprise Partnership).

What happens next

The application was submitted on 22nd March 2019 and it is anticipated that the government will announce outcome in July 2019, although this could change.