A critical stage has been reached in the development of Cannock town centre following the awarding of £20 million of Levelling Up Fund money by the Government nearly 12 months ago.
With considerable `behind the scenes` work taking place in recent months, Cannock Chase Council now needs to take its next steps, legally and formally with all and any affected parties, and begin a process of land acquisition around the town centre’s disused and unsightly former multi-storey car park and towards Church Street.
At its Cabinet meeting last Thursday (15 September) the Council agreed to make a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to help realise its ambitions to considerably improve key parts of the town centre.
CPOs enable local authorities, under planning and regeneration powers, to compulsorily purchase land to deliver regeneration benefits. This can help to facilitate the redevelopment of large, complex, and disparate sites such as the site in Cannock town centre.
The Council’s CPO will need to be supported by a Statement of Reasons explaining why the Council believes there is a compelling case in the public interest for using compulsory purchase powers to acquire land for its town centre regeneration proposals. The CPO will need to be confirmed by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities before compulsory purchase powers can be exercised by the Council.
The Council’s preference is to acquire the land it needs by agreement, and it is open to negotiating terms with affected parties, with CPO powers providing a back-up in case acquisitions cannot be agreed within the necessary timescales.
The Council’s scheme for Cannock town centre would see a significantly improved leisure and cultural offer, which would include a revitalised Prince of Wales Theatre, more hospitality venues, better public realm and improved connectivity for pedestrians. These are designed to make the town centre a place that is more welcoming for families, and one that becomes a nicer and safer place to visit and spend quality time in.
A key highway improvement called the ‘Northern Gateway’ aims to transform pedestrian access into the town centre from Beecroft Road car park, into a user friendly and more attractive arrival point for visitors. The Council’s proposals also include managed workspaces, which will be provided to create opportunities for many new and local businesses to start and grow, supported with business advice.
During the summer, the Council engaged with residents to gather their current perceptions of the town centre. There have been over 1,200 responses received and these are helping to inform how the scheme progresses. Feedback is currently being analysed in detail to present to the Levelling Up Fund Project Board. The survey results will be published later this autumn.
Key perceptions about the town centre that have emerged are: `it is rundown and tired`, the number of empty shops, the `eyesore` of the multi-storey car park, the lack of `decent shops`, `poor lighting`, its cleanliness, and `street drinking`.
When asked what would encourage you to visit, respondents have summarised this as `good quality and a variety of restaurants`, `better shops` `family friendly space and activities and facilities for families`, `more planting and flowers` and `a safer and better lit environment`.
Councillor Mike Sutherland, Portfolio Holder for District and High Street Development at Cannock Chase Council said: “The clock is ticking if we are to realise our ambitions to radically change Cannock town centre. While it is less than a year since we were awarded the Levelling Up Fund money, we have seen rising costs and consumer demands changing. This is making it important to `crack on` with the whole scheme.
“Working with our various partners, including Staffordshire County Council, Cannock Town Centre Partnership, South Staffordshire College and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, we can report good progress being made but now comes the next critical stage of preparing to make CPOs.
“Needless to say, I am pleased to report that our survey asking what residents dislike about the town centre and, importantly, what they would like to see to improve its appeal to both residents and visitors to Cannock, has provided invaluable feedback. As a result, we intend to build on this next month by holding `drop in` sessions in the town centre to give residents the chance to come and talk to us in person and help shape our plans further.
“Details of these sessions will be announced shortly and will feature scaled up drawings of our LUF bid vision for the town centre, with an opportunity for residents to record their views, as well as to gain an understanding about some of the challenges we are having to deal with given the two-year plus timescale from the initial bid submission.”
Cannock Chase Council was awarded £20 million by the Government to regenerate Cannock town centre on 27 October 2021 during the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak’s Budget Statement.
Councillor Mike Sutherland, Portfolio Holder for District and High Street Development, at the Beecroft Road car park entrance to the town centre.