Creative public and private sector partnerships link heritage to growth

Date published: 25 March 2019

A Lincolnshire council is maximising opportunities for heritage-led regeneration by getting creative with a range of delivery models.

West Lindsey District Council is determined to reshape Gainsborough Town Centre and it is not letting the national challenges affecting the retail industry, and the current economic uncertainty deter them.

It launched an ambitious INVEST Programme in 2016 to promote development opportunities across the town, which has received tremendous support from the public sector funds, totalling more than £10 million.

Investors including the Greater Lincolnshire Enterprise Partnership are ‘confident’ its investment will make a ‘substantial difference’ and already new businesses are opening up in the town including a hotel and much more.

Alongside the development opportunities, a heritage-led master plan has been developed to guide the restoration and regeneration of the town’s historic fabric and to act as a catalyst for the wider renaissance of the town centre.

One project which has transformed a number of run down and derelict shops and created residential dwelling above them, has been described as an ‘exemplar approach’ by Historic England. This has prompted the launch of a new grant fund to replicate the success of the residential accommodation in the town centre.

Cllr Jeff Summers, Leader of West Lindsey District Council said the council is committed in its approach to bring about positive change to the town.

He said: “Four years ago, the council appointed Eve Fawcett-Moralee, who is our Executive Director of Economic and Commercial Growth. She joined us from the private sector and has been leading and driving the council on this exciting programme of work, which has transformed the way we deliver regeneration.

“We are proud to be using a range of exciting delivery mechanisms through the development of partnerships with the private sector. Not only is this helping to realise our ambitious investment programme but it has helped increase the pace of development.

“We understand the viability challenges and we are working proactively to support the development process. We will continue to look for new and unique ways to bring about positive change.”

So far the town centre place making programme has delivered:

  • Hotel and restaurant complex at a key gateway site, with public funding support

  • A council led shop-front grant scheme available to property owners to restore/ reinstate shopfronts as outlined in the Heritage Masterplan. This has successfully attracted new businesses and it has been praised as an ‘exemplar approach’ by Historic England.

  • A new Development Partnership has been created between the Council and Muse Developments Ltd to bring forward major commercial and residential development within the town centre and across the wider town.

  • A £1.8m Townscape Heritage Scheme is being developed to restore historic buildings within the ‘historic heart’ of Gainsborough, following a successful Stage 1 bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

  • Market Street Renewal Ltd - a public/private Joint Venture with award winning property developers Dransfield Properties was established to acquire and renovate town centre properties. A number of properties have been brought back into economic use, with exemplar design. This included the renovation of upper floors into residential dwellings, which was a pilot for a ‘Living Over the Shop’ (LOTS).

  • The Council is rolling out its Living Over the Shop (LOTS) scheme across the wider town centre, through a £4 million investment the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP)

Clive Fletcher Principal Historic Places Advisor for Historic England said: “The reinstatement of historic shop frontages has been demonstrated to reverse decline in the High Street, re-introducing the specialness at street level that in so many places has been lost over time. The works to historic shops on Market Street in Gainsborough exemplifies this approach.”

Cllr Sheila Bibb, Chairman of the Prosperous Communities Committee at the council said: “Our approach to the town centre regeneration has also been endorsed in the Grimsey Review 2, which is an industry review, into revitalising high streets. It recognises that seismic changes that are needed to help high streets adjust to the 21 century and I believe the LOTS scheme will help towards that. The presence of residential uses with the town centre is important and is increasingly being recognised nationally.”

Ruth Carver, Director of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which has invested in the council’s plans said: “We are confident that our investment in the Gainsborough Growth Programme will make a substantial difference to the town centre once completed, and the LOTS scheme element demonstrates the type of innovative approaches that can be taken in partnership to enable good quality housing provision.”

Minister for Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, said the LOTS scheme will support the regeneration of the town centre.

He said:

“This will support the regeneration of the high street alongside other town centre improvements that are taking place and will help make Gainsborough an even more vibrant town that residents can be proud of.”

The council’s wider regeneration strategy for Gainsborough is predicated on housing-led economic growth. The town will accommodate 12 per cent total housing growth across Central Lincolnshire by 2036 (equating to 4,435 new homes). The strategy aims to provide a greater range and quality of housing within an attractive environment as this will help attract a highly skilled workforce and secure new business investment.

The Delivery Plan represents a two-pronged approach, to address the development constraints and create the upshift needed to increase the pace of housing development in Gainsborough.

  • Strategic Housing Sites: support the delivery of market-led development on key sites by facilitating the delivery of key infrastructure to unlock development.

  • Town Centre Living and Regeneration:  a direct delivery role in bringing forward complex town centre sites to enhance the commercial and residential offer in order to ‘kick start’ the market.

Significant progress has already been made in securing major commercial and housing development in the town since the award of Housing Zone Status in 2015, and the subsequent launch of its Prospectus for Growth in 2016.

Key achievements include:

  • Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF): £2.1m grant funding secured to support abnormal infrastructure to unlock the first phase of the Southern SUE delivering over 400 homes in the town.

  • Riverside North (Japan Road), Strategic Housing Zone site acquired by the Council for development of circa 130 homes, including affordable housing;

  • Local Development Order adopted for the Riverside Gateway site and now full planning consent in place for 220 dwellings;

  • Continued collaborative working with land owners to broker support for development via partners such as Homes England.

Cllr Trevor Young, ward member for Gainsborough said: “Gainsborough has a lot in common with other urban areas and market towns with regards a lack of viability, which has limited the pace of development. This makes it even more important for the council and its public and private sector partners to work together for the good of local business and our residents. Expanding the commercial offer and creating a strong town centre is considered critical to increasing the appeal of the town and building investor confidence in the area.”

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