Shop fronts, historic buildings, town centre flats and streets situated between the war memorial end of Sheep Street and the Victoria Street and Montagu Street junction will be given a new lease of life as part of a £4m four-year project funded by Historic England in conjunction with the Kettering Council which is proposing to put up £2.4m from reserves to fund the renovations.
The authority was one of 69 councils named in September as being successful in the Historic England High Streets Heritage Action Zone £95m fund and given an indicative budget of £1.98m which the authority will match fund along with some private investment.
At an executive meeting of the council last night the plans were welcomed by the Labour opposition and other local organisations who had gone along to find out more.
Labour leader Cllr Mick Scrimshaw said: “Obviously all of us welcome this scheme and the investment it will bring for Kettering’s town centre.
“My group supports this scheme in principal… but would like to also stress the importance of public engagement and consultation. There have been occasions in the past where consultation has not always been what it could have been, and given that there are planned two consultation sessions later this week which I didn’t think the public know about, would it be possible to hear more about these initial sessions and get an assurance that later opportunities to engage with the public will be maximised?”
The authority must now move fast to get approval of its programme design, which will give a broad outline of areas to be included and the style of the development.
The fast pace of the bid, which has meant little consultation so far with residents, came in for some criticism last night with Kettering Business Network founder Simon Cox and Labour councillor Anne Lee.
However executive council member Lloyd Bunday praised the hard work of the council’s head of economic development Rochelle Mathieson who had applied for the bid in the wake of the authority being unsuccessful in securing regeneration money from the Government’s Future High Streets fund.
A community engagement plan with residents will start next month and then the council says there will be an extensive consultation programme to get as many people, organisations and businesses involved in the regeneration as possible.
Shop owners will be able to bid for a grant to improve their frontage from next year and there will also be a grant scheme to encourage structural improvements to historic buildings. The scheme will also push the idea of renovating flats in historic buildings.
The council will also extend the existing style of landscaping in the market square down to the High Street.
Altogether around £4.3m will be spent. £780,000 will go towards shopfront improvement grants, £240,000 for building improvement grants, £750,000 for flat conversions and £2.1m on public realms improvements.
At the meeting Cllr Mark Dearing said he wanted to clear up any confusion about the funds that had been going around on social media and said it would not be used by the council to buy any buildings.
The slow decline of Kettering’s high street has been one of the major concerns for local politicians and residents over the past decade. It has been hit by the opening of the hugely successful Rushden Lakes and also by big names such as Marks and Spencer, Burton and Topshop leaving the high street in recent years.
Opposition councillors had recently been critical of the Conservative-run council’s decision to leave £3.8m of reserves earmarked for economic development untouched for eleven years.
£2.4m of this money will now be used to match fund Historic England’s grant.
Also at the meeting the committee endorsed the proposal to unoccupied Wellington House in Northampton Road and use it as accommodation for vulnerable homeless people who are sleeping rough in the town.