Stratford Streetscape Improvement Project
Report on Pre-Application Advice Provided
by the Stratford Society
In early 2010, following a study tour to Herefordshire to study their Shop Front Grant Scheme, the District Council set aside £100,000 to support a similar grant scheme designed to improve shop fronts along Stratford’s Historic Spine (Henley Street, High Street and Chapel Street). The scheme was launched in November 2010, inviting applications for a first round of grants which covered 50% of eligible expenditure. Several applications were received and, after careful evaluation by a panel of Assessors, five grants were awarded. Refurbishment work on these premises has now been completed, leaving a balance of about £75,000 un-spent.
|Colin Davis High Street Study |
Detailed recommendations for improving Stratford's High Street were proposed in a pilot study by distinguished urban designer Colin Davis in 2005 and
Photographs of every building, with comments and suggested improvements, can be seen
Herefordshire Shop Front Grant Scheme and The Hereford Study Tour
The Society organised a study tour to Herefordshire to study their shopfront initiative. The visit took place on Wednesday 22 September and was judged a great success by participants. There were 21 participants: 5 from the Society, 6 from SDC (including Cllrs Wixey and Roach), 3 retailers from the Stratford BID, plus 7 others from Stratford Voice, WCC and STC. Hereford’s cabinet member for Economic Development & Community and 3 senior officers spent most of the day with the group and gave members a valuable insight into the county’s economic regeneration programme. SDC responded quickly to the best practice showcased during the visit and launched its own £100,000 shopfront grant scheme to help improve shopfronts in Henley Street, High Street and Church Street.Click Here for details of the Herefordshire Shop Front Grant Scheme
Click Here for details of the Study Tour
Click here for the outcome
Click her to view a Herefordshire press release
Herefordshire is a unitary authority. About 3 years ago, it developed a Shop Front Design Guide which has now been adopted as SPG. They also have an Article 4 direction covering the colour of shop fronts in the Hereford city centre.
Shop Front Grant Schemes have been delivered in Herefordshire since 1997 with their inception through the Leominster SRB Programme, applied for and delivered initially by Leominster District Council. Since then, there have been new and repeated schemes in the county within the 5 Market Towns of Herefordshire; Bromyard, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster and Ross-on-Wye. These have mainly been funded by AWM through the Market Towns Initiative. Herefordshire City has been supported twice by funding through the Council’s Capital Programme Funding to support enhancement to the shop fronts located within the Hereford City Conservation Area. One scheme is currently being delivered. The Council has also recently launched a countywide scheme giving opportunity to parts of the county that have not been able to apply before.
All grants are discretionary and, particularly in the case of Hereford City, aim to enhance the physical appearance of the city retail core, to help regenerate the town’s retail status and provide a more pleasant city centre environment. The owner, or lessee of the property, can apply provided the terms of the lease do not prohibit such work. Eligible shop fronts include independent retail and commercial premises, but exclude banks, building societies, private residences and charity shops. Copies of the Shopfront Design Guide are made available to applicants on request. The last tranche of funding for Hereford City enabled the Council to offer grants of up to £5,000, or 80% of the eligible project cost, which ever was lower.
Applicants were first checked for eligibility and, after clearing this hurdle, were invited to discuss their proposals with the Building Conservation Section regarding planning, listed building and conservation area issues. Costed applications are reviewed by the Council’s Building Conservation Team and then assessed by an independent panel set up especially for the scheme. The panel either offered a grant, offered a grant with conditions, requested further information, or rejected the application. Once a decision had been taken – and all the administrative steps had been completed – the work could start. Finally, the grant was released following a satisfactory inspection of the completed works and after copies of all invoices had been submitted.
Officers confirmed that the scheme did not depend on the Council being a unitary authority. As previously noted, the previous Leominster District Council ran a scheme through their Economic and Leisure Division.
Leave Elizabeth House, Stratford on Johnsons 22-seater coach at 9.30 am to arrive at Herefordshire Council, Plough Lane, Hereford at about 11.00 am. Meet Bill Bloxsome (Team Leader Building Conservation) and Tracy Ricketts (Delegated Grants and Programmes Manager).
Visit to Hereford and Leominster to examine Shop Front Grant Scheme
The tour, organised by the Stratford Society, included Cllr Sue Wixey, Deputy Leader of the District Council, Gillian Roache, the Council’s planning Portfolio holder, officers from the District and County Councils and the mayor and past mayor, Cllrs Shelagh Sandle and Jenny Fradgley.
The group heard how grant schemes had operated successfully throughout the Herefordshire area since 1997 and went on a walking tour of Hereford city centre and Leominster. In 1997 Leominster had 40% empty shops and now there were only three. Traders who qualified for grants had received 80% of their costs, up to £5,000. In Leominster, the average cost of refurbishing a shopfront was about £4,000, which attracted a grant of about £2,500. The participants were impressed and inspired by what they heard and saw.
Cllr Jenny Fradgley was particularly impressed with the way in which Hereford had handled their “out of town” shopping. The cattle market development of larger stores was within walking distance of the town centre and the easy connection had meant that smaller shops could thrive in the historic core, with the supermarkets and department stores still within easy reach.
“We need to understand what we’ve lost and then we need to make sure we are shored up by really robust planning guidance so that we can say no to developers when they do not fit in with our overall vision.” She said.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but why didn’t we say no to people like Argos moving out of the town, as they have done in Hereford?” said Alan Keech of Daisy Chain who, with Pat Whitehouse of Shipton Jewellers, represented Stratford’s retailers.
“It’s too late to reverse that, but at least the Council could be firm about other people moving to the Maybird. They should also look at ways of speeding up any grant scheme – maybe even helping retrospectively – so that the time taken by the various levels of bureaucracy doesn’t hold up regeneration. Stratford needs a quick fix so that the whole town looks really good when the theatre opens.”
Pat Whitehouse felt that pressure should be put on landlords like the Town Trust to take a broader view of the improvements that could be made to help the town and not “simply to look at the bottom line”. She was also among the many traders and residents who regard parking as a major issue for the town.
“These days traffic wardens are almost hovering so that they can slap a ticket on you,” she said. “We are competing with several other towns and should consider free parking on Sundays as Redditch has, and pay on exit parking in the off street parks so that nobody has to worry all the time about getting back to their cars. It’s no good assuming that the Shakespeare connection will see us through, because it won’t. We have to do a whole lot more and Hereford has shown us that it can be done.”
For further information contact Ian Heggie 01789 299891
List of participants.
Stratford Society (local Civic Society)
Stratford District Council
Warwickshire County Council
Stratford Business Improvement District
Where Herefordshire leads, Shakespeare’s birthplace follows…
A delegation from Stratford-upon-Avon visited Hereford last week and went away impressed, after seeing first hand how Herefordshire Council’s shopfront grant scheme works.
The delegation, which included the deputy leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council and the Council’s planning portfolio holder, the Mayor, a former Mayor and 18 of the town’s most influential opinion leaders, including planners, developers and retailers, were treated to a whistle-stop tour of the county.
“Their visit included a walk around Hereford city centre and Leominster – they had heard about our shopfront scheme and described seeing it in action as ‘a revelation’,” said Cllr Blackshaw, cabinet member for economic development and community services, who hosted last week’s visit.
“In Hereford they were particularly impressed with the way the scheme fits in with the ongoing regeneration of the area. They were particularly impressed with the way we’re blending the traditional and historic with the new.
“During a question and answer session they asked about development in Hereford city centre and they said what they had seen would help them as they shape Stratford’s future.”
Following the visit, Ian Heggie, vice president of the Stratford Society, said: “Well done Herefordshire. You should be proud of what you have managed to achieve and also proud that you have inspired Shakespeare’s town to follow your lead.”
Cllr Blackshaw added: “It’s good to know that popular tourist destinations like Stratford-upon-Avon can be influenced by Hereford.”
John Burnett 01432 260224