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Stratford Streetscape Improvement Project

Report on Pre-Application Advice Provided

by the Stratford Society

Background

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.

In early 2012, the District Council launched a second round of grants and agreed to work more closely with the Stratford Society to ensure a better take-up of grants. To support this, the Stratford Society interviewed the first five grant recipients to seek their views on the first round process. Several clear messages emerged from these interviews: (i) the documentation was too long and complicated; (ii) the grant amount was too low; (iii) the tenants usually had no idea there was anything wrong with their shop front and, when they did, did not know what to do about it; and (iv) they did not know how to find reputable builders to ask them to bid for the work. The Stratford Society worked closely with the Council to address these issues – documentation was simplified, the grant amount was raised to 75% and the Council invited the Stratford Society to recruit a qualified architect to provide pre-application advice to potential applicants. A budget of £3,000 was set by the SDC for payment to the Stratford Society for this advice .

Click Here to download a full copy of the report

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
adopted by SDC as Supplementary Planning Guidance.

Photographs of every building, with comments and suggested improvements, can be seen

Click Here for the summary

click here to view the full report - 5.5MB

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
A High Street Study in Stratford-upon-Avon Executive Summary

A unique street

At first sight, the High Street appears to be a typical bustling shopping street in a prosperous town centre, though with a good range of shops and some fine old buildings. Further study reveals that many of the buildings do genuinely date back some three of four hundred years.

The High Street is at the centre of a very special town centre and, within plans for economic regeneration, deserves to be refurbished to the highest standards.

Suggested improvements

This study illustrates what should be the expected standard of renovations for each building in the street, both the facades above eye level and the shop fronts and shop signs themselves.

The details of the public realm could also be improved: the materials and workmanship of the pavements are not of a high standard. These improvements could be combined with the mooted traffic reduction proposals. Street lighting could be reconsidered using advanced techniques that are similar to theatrical stage lighting, rather than conventional street lamps. A totally magical world could be produced during the hours of darkness.

How can this be done?

To implement such changes will require dedication and co-ordination of purpose by all those with an interest in the street.

Many improvements would take place when tenants or leases change. In the public sector there are opportunities to co-ordinate the reduction of traffic and innovative street lighting with these suggestions for total street improvement.

An immediate start

But a start could be made immediately to carry out modest improvements through normal ongoing maintenance.

The greater benefit will be achieved if all work by building owners and tenants, as well as the public sector, is carried out only after reference to this study.

A street of historic buildings, many three hundred years old

But some buildings and all of the pavements could be improved

Building renovations could be combined with traffic reduction


The study has been prepared for Stratford upon Avon District Council, Warwickshire County Council, the Stratford Society, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company by Colin Davis Associates, January 2005.

Herefordshire Shop Front Grant Scheme
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.

Stratford Society Study Tour, Wednesday 22 nd September, 2010 Programme for the day

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).

11.15 - 12.15 Presentation on Herefordshire Shop Front Guidelines and Grant Scheme and roll-out to the County as a whole

12.15 - 12.30 Discussion and initial questions

12.30 - 13.30 Buffet lunch with 1-2 concerned Councillors, plus an opportunity to study the Council’s static display on the Market Towns Shop Front Grant Scheme (Finger buffet Option 2, plus fruit juice, tea and coffee)

13.30 - 14.30 Walkabout of Hereford city centre Conservation Area to examine improved shop fronts

14.30 – 15.00 Travel by coach to Leominster

15.00 – 15.45 Tour of Leominster improved shop fronts

15.45 – 16.15 Tea and concluding discussion with selected landlords and tenants

16.15 – 17.45 Return to Elizabeth House, Stratford

This study tour is being sponsored by the Stratford Society for elected members and officers from Warwickshire County Council and Stratford District Council, together with members of the Historic Spine Working Group. A nominal charge of £10 per head is being made to cover costs.

Stratford Society Study Tour Outcome

Visit to Hereford and Leominster to examine Shop Front Grant Scheme

Councillors and officers from all three local authorities were given an insight into the way other towns are managing the recession last week (Wednesday, 22nd) when they toured Hereford and Leominster to examine the way a grant scheme can help to improve shopfronts and trading conditions.

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)
Ian Heggie, Vice President
Ian Prosser, Vice Chairman
Jenny Fradgley
Jennifer Heggie
Beryl Downing
Peter Burgess

Stratford District Council
Cllr Sue Wixey, Cabinet member (deputy leader)
Cllr Gillian Roach, Cabinet member
Cllr Jenny Fradgley, former Town Mayor
Paul Ogden, World Class Stratford Project
Charlotte Gallaher, Urban Design Officer
Tony Perks, Head of Planning

Warwickshire County Council
Avril Smolders, Regeneration Projects

Stratford Business Improvement District
Alan Keech, Daisychain
Pat Whitehouse, Shipston Jewellers

Other Participants
Shelagh Sandle, Town Mayor
Joanne Sainsbury, town retail representative
Geoff Williams, Stratford Voice (resident’s association)
Eppie Sellar, Stratford Voice (resident’s association)
Ronnie Mulryne, chair, World Class Stratford Project
Peter Wilson, Transformation Project Director, Royal Shakespeare Company
Tin Wightman, board member, Stratford Town Trust

Herefordshire Press Release

News release

PR Visitors/10

XX September 2010

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.”

Ends

John Burnett 01432 260224