Staffordshire County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, Councillor Philip White, has been to Cannock to understand `first-hand` Cannock Chase Council’s plans to regenerate the town centre.
Last autumn the Council was awarded £20million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) to help fund its ambitious plans to transform the town centre, where the main retail and leisure area has seen little new development for around 40 years and is showing its age with a decaying and prominent multi-storey car park and empty units including the former indoor market hall.
The visit came as the Council completed its analysis of a consultation with residents and businesses on a vision for the town centre. The virtual public consultation exhibition asked for views on leisure and culture in the town centre, connectivity, and the potential for business and skills workspaces. The Council is especially keen to make more of current assets including the Prince of Wales Theatre and the area around St Luke’s Church.
The Council received 231 responses to its online consultation. Views were captured on why people currently don’t visit the town centre, as well as what people would like to see with the LUF investment.
The lack of a good retail offer and facilities, concerns regarding crime and anti-social behaviour and a generally unappealing/unattractive environment are what put people off visiting now.
However, looking ahead, there were a wide variety of responses on what the funding could do. These can be themed around having better quality spaces and public realm, facilities for young people, new restaurants/cafes/bars, improved cultural and leisure facilities, improving cycling and walking routes, and a wider variety of shops especially independent retailers.
In March the Council will launch a survey and conduct interviews to capture views in more detail about current perceptions of the town centre. This baseline study is required by the government to help evaluate its LUF investment.
During his visit, Councillor White was also able to see Cannock rail station where a feasibility study is being completed by the County Council, Cannock Chase Council, West Midlands Rail Executive and Network Rail to improve a station recognised as wholly inadequate for a town of Cannock’s size. Connecting the rail station and the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet West Midlands to the town centre is seen as critical to the success of the whole regeneration scheme.
Councillor Phil Hewitt, Portfolio Leader for Innovation and High Streets at Cannock Chase Council said: “We were pleased to have the opportunity to show Philip around. It is vital in his County Council role that he appreciates the town centre as it is now and understands the steps we need to take to deliver our vision, and the inevitable challenges we will have to face.
“Philip, who lives in East Staffordshire, had researched the town centre before arriving but as he said to us after his visit `you don’t really get the full picture until you see itself for yourself`. Crucially, he brings the experience of having been involved in other projects across the county which is invaluable to appreciating what lies ahead for us here and how the County Council can support us.”
County Councillor Philip White added: “The County Council has just published its new strategic plan which includes the economic priority of regenerating and transforming our town centres in Staffordshire, including supporting Levelling Up Fund schemes. Revitalising our town centres is particularly important as they recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“We will be a key partner in the regeneration of Cannock town centre as it progresses. This will build on our recent work in the town to support the development of the designer outlet and the effort to improve Cannock rail station.
“Cannock is a town on the up and we are looking forward to playing our part in making it an even more attractive and enjoyable place for people to visit, work or live."
Joining Councillor Hewitt and Councillor White on the tour were Councillor Bryan Jones, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Leader for Community Safety at Cannock Chase Council, and County Councillor Paul Snape who represents Cannock Town Centre on Staffordshire County Council and is the Chairman of the County Council.
Pictured outside the Prince of Wales Theatre are (left to right) Staffordshire County Councillor Philip White, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, Councillor Phil Hewitt, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Leader for Innovation and High Streets at Cannock Chase Council, Councillor Bryan Jones, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Leader for Community Safety at Cannock Chase Council, and County Councillor Paul Snape who represents Cannock Town Centre on Staffordshire County Council and is the Chairman of the County Council.