Worcester was awarded £17.9million in late 2020 from central Government’s Future High Streets Fund; investment that is now transforming the northern part of the city and beyond.

Substantial connectivity and public realm work improving pathways, roads, and other vital facilities (such as litter bins, parking, and cycle shelters), have already been completed across the town centre.

Plans for a multi-use arts venue have been developed, a design that will revive the historic Scala Theatre, Worcester’s original 1920s cinema, and renovate the empty Grade II-listed Corn Exchange.

This major development will complement The Arches - Worcester, the refurbishment of Worcester’s Victorian railway arches, located less than five minutes’ walk from Angel Place.

All Future High Streets Fund work is planned for completion in 2024.

Worcester's Regeneration: what’s been done so far?

The City Council has acquired the Scala building and Corn Exchange to deliver the new performance arts venue.

A comprehensive programme of public realm improvements is being carried out in Angel Place, Angel Row, Trinity St, St Swithin’s St, Trinity Passage and The Cross. This includes the resurfacing of footways and carriageways, plus improvements to cycle shelters and parking bays in The Cross. In addition conservation kerbs, new bollards and railings, new lighting, and new street furniture such as bins are being delivered.

Further Public Realm improvements will include The Foregate, Forgate St and Angel St. The City Council is also looking to enhance Angel Place to attract new visitors to the and draw increased footfall to the area.

The Council has completed stage one of a Property Enhancement Scheme, a grant programme for local businesses and residents to bring vacant and under-used premises back into use.

The Council has acquired 8 Angel Street (the former Co-op store) and is considering plans for a future mixed-use redevelopment.

The City Council’s objectives in investing the Future High Streets Fund money is to create new leisure uses, activities and event space in Angel Place and the surrounding areas, alongside new performance space and commercial opportunity.

Artist's Impression of the Scala Theatre outside frontage

An image of what the completed Scala arts centre could look like. Image courtesy of Burrell Foley Fischer

What’s next for Worcester's Regeneration?

The areas around Angel Street and Angel Place, The Foregate, The Cross and Trinity Street will all be regenerated as part of the Future High Streets Fund work. This will create a vibrant urban neighbourhood with new shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars, as well as housing and office space. The city centre’s ‘northern quarter’ will be transformed into a more attractive destination for visitors, including young people and families.

What About the Scala and Corn Exchange?

Subject to planning approval, the city’s historic Scala Theatre, Worcester’s original 1920s cinema, will be entirely renovated into a multi-use arts centre. The neighbouring Grade II-listed Corn Exchange will also be completely refurbished. It will become a hub for artists and creators and a home for communities, transforming Worcester and its cultural offering, providing music, film, live performance, digital installations, dance, workshops, and more.

This major regeneration project is being delivered by the City Council in partnership with some of the county’s leading creative organisations. A strong local demand for a new venue like this was demonstrated through consultation events held over the summer.

Subject to the outcome of the planning application, the aim is for the construction work to begin by late Summer 2024, so that the Scala is ready to open its doors for late Summer/Autumn 2025.

The ambition for the Scala is that it will:

  • host local, regional, national and international artists and acts
  • develop new talent and be an incubator for innovative ideas
  • be forward-looking, hosting new and digital experiences
  • be fully accessible and inclusive, no matter your age or ability
  • encourage new audiences through its doors
  • embrace our diverse communities
  • take work out to Angel Place and the city beyond
  • regenerate the city centre’s northern quarter, boosting the regional economy.

To turn these ambitions into reality the City Council and its arts partners will continue to engage widely in Worcester and beyond.

Designs for the proposed Scala Arts Centre have been done by architects Burrell Foley Fischer, who also designed the Hall for Cornwall, as well as the Crucible in Sheffield, among several other award-winning venues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Future High Streets Fund?

It is a Government initiative led by the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government that aims to rejuvenate the UK’s high streets. The £1bn fund is to be used to renew and reshape town centres and high streets through transformational schemes which improve visitors’ experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability.

The way we shop and the way that communities use their high streets is changing and the rise of online retailing is creating greater competition. As a result, high streets are having to evolve and adapt.

The Future High Street Fund was initially launched in December 2018. Following the submission of a detailed business case for the funding to enhance the northern gateway in June 2020, Worcester City Council received £17.93m grant funding in December 2020.

Why the northern gateway?

Since the 19th Century, the northern gateway to Worcester city centre – the area around The Cross, Angel St and Trinity St – has served as a commercial hub within the city. However, the area has recently seen a decline as the number of vacant retail units has increased and footfall has decreased.

The objective of the Future High Streets Fund programme is to create a vibrant leisure and entertainment quarter adjacent to the high-quality primary retail core, providing residents and visitors with an additional incentive to spend time in Worcester's city centre.

View the location plan (PDF - 538 KB)

Who made Worcester’s bid to the Future High Streets Fund?

Worcester City Council prepared and submitted the successful bid to the Future High Streets Fund, with support from Worcestershire County Council, Worcestershire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), the Crown Estate (owners of Crowngate Shopping Centre), the University of Worcester, Worcester BID (Business Improvement District), the owners of Trinity House, market operator LSD Promotions and others.

Who's in the advisory team for Scala arts centre?

Following a widespread consultation process of more than 1000 local business and arts leaders, Worcester City Council is working with the following arts organisations to develop Scala arts centre:

  • Collar and Tie finds new ways of fusing drama and digital technologies.
  • Dancefest produces outstanding contemporary dance opportunities for all.
  • Mobilise Arts creates and produces bold, new live and digital work.
  • Severn Arts focuses on widening access to the arts for all, particularly children and young people.
  • The Kiln provides co-working space for Worcester’s remote workers.
  • Vestan specialises in independent cinemas and live music.

Thanks to all the other businesses and leaders who have already shared their expertise and advice, as well as those who continue to do so.