Worcester set to bid for £28m to transform city

Severn-Centre-for-Wellbeing---artists-impression Severn Centre for Wellbeing - artists' impression

Worcester councillors are expected to be asked to approve a plan to bid for almost £28m when the Council's Policy & Resources Committee meets next week.

Worcester City Council will submit a bid to Government's £3.6 billion Towns Fund at the end of January, setting out how a potential £27.9m investment could deliver long-term economic growth for the city and support recovery from COVID.

Last year Worcester was one of 101 towns across the UK to be given the opportunity to create a Town Investment Plan (TIP), making a compelling pitch for the funding.

The plan will be published on the City Council's website on 21 January for consideration by the Policy and Resources Committee on 25 January.

The Worcester Towns Fund Board, which comprises 14 local organisations, has proactively engaged with residents and businesses over the past 12 months to get a broad range of local views to support the development of vision for Worcester and agree on potential projects that the funding could support.

177 project suggestions were submitted to the My Town website and a final shortlist of ideas was agreed by the Council, following two rounds of webinars for residents and businesses in December.

"We are living in unprecedented times but, as our Town Investment Plan demonstrates, ambition and commitment have never been in short supply here in Worcester," says Cllr Marc Bayliss, Leader of Worcester City Council.

"We are confident that the Plan we are preparing to Government will produce a strong platform from which we can create more jobs and develop better life chances for local people. We have consulted extensively, and this Plan reflects a wide range of views on how this could best be achieved."

Cllr Adrian Gregson, Deputy Leader of Worcester City Council, said:  "Worcester is a city of many strengths, but we also have considerable challenges too. This comprehensive plan will invest in training for all and provide more opportunities for our deprived communities. It will also expand Worcester's tourist economy by enhancing our heritage assets and investing further in the riverside.

"As we recover from the pandemic, this plan will ensure that the City and the people who live here can benefit from long-term sustainable growth".

Worcester City Council has already successfully applied for £17.9m from Government's Future High Streets Fund, receiving confirmation at the end of December 2020.

The Government states that the separate Towns Fund application must focus on:

  • Urban regeneration, planning and land use - ensuring towns are thriving places for people to live and work, including by: increasing density in town centres; strengthening local economic assets including local cultural assets; site acquisition, remediation, preparation, regeneration; and making full use of planning tools to bring strategic direction and change
  • Skills and enterprise infrastructure - driving private sector investment and ensuring towns have the space to support skills and small business development
  • Connectivity - developing local transport schemes that complement regional and national networks, as well as supporting the delivery of improved digital connectivity.

Worcester's Towns Fund bid proposes six projects, reflecting these themes.

Build a Severn Centre for Health and Wellbeing

Situated on the Severn riverbank in the centre of Worcester, this will be a major new regional centre to support the education and training of health professionals. The Centre will make a vital contribution to recovery from COVID-19 and will help to meet local and national nursing and health professional shortage.

The former Worcester News building on Hylton Road will be converted in to a 4,000m2 facility to house nursing, physiotherapy and medical training - including an anatomy lab for 50-100 students. The site will include a GP practice as well as on-site therapy and rehabilitation clinics, contributing to the needs of the local community.

This major expansion will build on the University of Worcester's expertise in widening participation. It will create more opportunities for local people from disadvantaged communities to enter health professions and gain employment as nurses, paramedics, midwives, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

Unlock Shrub Hill's potential

Redevelop the First Bus Depot site and use this canal side area to build 350 new homes and create 2,000m² of commercial / employment space.

Create a new pedestrian and cycle route between the Shrub Hill Railway Station, Shrub Hill Regeneration area, and the city centre.

Create a 3,000m² Enterprise Centre and build approximately 100 new homes on the current Isaac Maddox House site. This will act as a catalyst for business start-up and growth, providing a range of co-working and individual business spaces, alongside a training and business hub to help residents and small businesses evolve business ideas into real opportunities. A partner will be engaged to provide enterprise skills training.

Help local people to develop new skills

Expand the offering of Worcester's community centres (including those run by the Worcester Community Trust) to provide inclusive, safe and high-quality training facilities in deprived communities.

A second 'Building Block' construction skills centre will be created in Dines Green, building on the success of the existing one in the Warndon Community Centre.

The Centres would also help people to develop basic IT skills and will offer more arts and cultural activities, delivered as part of The Arches-Worcester initiative.

The main aim is to help Worcester residents with no or low qualifications to develop skills, but it would also enable others to retrain to find employment in the post COVID-19 jobs market.

Improved transport links to connect communities to opportunities

Create new walking and cycling routes, linking communities to opportunities for employment, education and leisure.

Build the proposed Kepax bridge across the river at Gheluvelt Park.

Secure cycle parking will be provided in city centre and neighbourhood locations.

A city bike hire scheme will be established, to include conventional and electric bikes.

Making the most of Worcester's riverside as a destination

Support a range of projects to improve the attractiveness of the riverside as a visitor destination, increasing visitor numbers and economic benefit to the city.

Improve landscaping, signage and wayfinding, including the route from the High Street down Copenhagen Street.

Work with the Canal and River Trust to provide commercial and leisure moorings. Offer toilets and other facilities at Diglis as part of the ground-breaking 'Unlocking the Severn' initiative.

Support redevelopment of the River Sports Club to provide public facilities.

Open up public access to the Cathedral Gardens and Bishop's Palace Gardens.

Support Worcestershire County Cricket Club to create a Museum and Visitor Centre, celebrating the history of the sport in the city and its role in the fall of apartheid.

Increase heritage tourist numbers

Promote and link our multitude of heritage assets to provide a compelling tourist attraction that will increase visitor numbers and length of stay.

Develop the national profile of The Commandery, a historic site whose story is central to the ending of the English Civil War, by investing in interpretation and making more links to national institutions.

Modernise the story of the Worcestershire Soldier at the City Museum and Art Gallery, using it as a catalyst for learning about democracy and conflict resolution.

Raise the quality of the interpretation at the Guildhall, one of the most beautiful civic buildings in England.

Provide a new arts exhibition space in the city centre.

Additional Notes 

The above proposals are subject to the Town Board approving the draft plan at its meeting on 20 January and recommending that it is presented to the Policy & Resources Committee for final approval.

Members of the Worcester Town Deal Board are: Worcester City Council, Worcestershire County Council, Worcester Cathedral, Sanctuary Housing, Worcester Community Action, St. Peter's Parish Council, Warndon Parish Council, Worcester Muslim Welfare Association, the Member of Parliament for Worcester, the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, the University of Worcester, the Heart of Worcestershire College, Worcester BID and Severn Arts. 

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