Hopeful heritage scheme will spark High Street recovery

By Tristan Harris Wednesday 14 November 2012 Updated: 14/11 22:55

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Buy photos » David A Thomas, Coun Del Booth and Les Sparks OBE at the launch. Picture by Tristan Harris.

A SCHEME aimed at improving Bromsgrove Town Centre was officially launched last Thursday (November 8) at the Council House, Burcot Lane.

The Bromsgrove Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) sees town businesses invited to bid for their share of £1.2million to improve the shops.

It is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and is being run in conjunction with Bromsgrove District Council and Worcestershire County Council, which is providing an extra £400,000 for works.

At the launch there were three guest speakers - Les Sparks OBE, the chair of the HLF West Midlands committee, Coun Dr Del Booth and the THI project officer David A Thomas.

Grants of between 60 per cent and 85 per cent are available for the different categories of work to improve the historic properties within the Bromsgrove Town Conservation Area.

They includes building repairs, the reinstatement of architectural features and bringing vacant historic floor space back into use.

The grants are for aspects such as timber repairs and preservation, damp-proofing, roof and chimney improvements, leadwork, masonry repairs, the renewal of defective brick and stonework, pointing and joinery.

They are dependant on work being undertaken with respect for the character and integrity of the building or structure, in conjunction with relevant national conservation policies and in accordance with English Heritage advice.

Establishments, such as NEW College and Avoncroft Museum, will also be on-hand to teach traditional crafts and techniques that will be used to carry out the work and return buildings to their historic glory.

The funding will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis and accepted quality materials and standards of workmanship must be adhered to when the work is undertaken.

Bromsgrove was just one of 12 applications chosen for the scheme in the whole of the UK.

Mr Sparks told The Standard some of the most successful schemes of this type had been carried out in historic market towns with a rich character and historic buildings, which was why Bromsgrove was ideal for the project.

He added Bromsgrove, like other town centres, had been impacted on by out of town supermarkets and Internet shopping.

"Our towns should be at the heart of the community where people look to.

"If you invest in the buildings and the space between the buildings, you can bring people back.

"The success of these schemes has been remarkable.

"We want to bring Bromsgrove back to being a prosperous, thriving and attractive place for the community."

Mr Thomas said it was hoped the scheme would be able to help buck the trend of the decline of the high street, which was a national problem.

He added, when completed, no one should be able to distinguish between an original 18th or 19th century shop front and one which had been revamped under the scheme.

And he said: "Bromsgrove needs to reinvent itself to survive - we need to ask what does Bromsgrove want to be known for."

Anyone wanting more information should call David Thomas on 01527 881343 or Mike Dunphy, the strategic planning manager on 01527 881325.

Alternatively, e-mail d.thomas@bromsgroveandredditch.gov.uk or m.dunphy@bromsgroveandredditch.gov.uk.

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Buy photos» Pat Tansell with one of the photographic depictions of Bromsgrove High Street. Picture by Tristan Harris.

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