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 new performance 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. The scheme includes a new 500-seat flexible auditorium alongside modern front and back of house facilities.
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 by 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 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 underused 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 opportunities.
An image of what the completed Scala arts venue 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.
Subject to planning approval, the city’s historic Scala Theatre, Worcester’s original 1920s cinema, will be entirely renovated into a state-of-the-art arts centre. The neighbouring Grade II-listed Corn Exchange will also be completely refurbished and opened as the theatre foyer and bar.
Worcester Theatres, who currently run the Swan Theatre and Huntingdon Hall, will also run the Scala Theatre. The Swan Theatre will continue to operate for community theatre groups for the foreseeable future, and activity at Huntingdon Hall will remain unchanged.
If planning permission is granted, the new arts venue will have a significant cultural impact, enticing a diverse range of first-class acts and artists to the city, as well as attracting new audiences. It will also have a strong positive effect on the local economy at large, as has been shown by other cultural developments on this scale around the UK in recent years.
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
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.
What happens next?
Firstly, the proposals will be subject to land assembly, design and feasibility work. Following that, planning permission will be sought to implement the proposals.
This page will be regularly updated with the most recent developments when more information becomes available. You can also keep in touch with the latest news on social media.
When will construction be completed?
The work is planned for completion by March 2024.