Councillors unanimously backed outline plans that could see the heart of Bideford transformed as part of a £9.7m bid for investment and regeneration. The scheme has been developed as Bideford’s bid for a slice of the £1billion “Future High Streets” Fund set up by the government. Both Bideford and Barnstaple are among the final list of 101 towns nationally who have made it through to the final round of bids. The complex funding arrangements mean that Bideford will be asking for the highest figure available of about £4.3million.
The Future High Street Fund is designed to support the transformation of town centres. With vacancy rates increasing nationally and a general shift towards online shopping, report after report has indicated a need for towns to become more focused on providing for the needs of their local community – with a particular focus on both health and experiences. It can’t be used just for painting buildings, upgrading shop fronts or even pot holes, but has to be about creating genuine community change and making people’s lives better.
The project has already seen communities, businesses, trade organisations, and District and Town councillors come together in a once-in-a-generation chance to unlock the potential of Bideford’s town centre as a unique experience for working, living and entertainment – all with a shared goal of creating a carbon neutral development with aspiration at its core.
The properties and land at the heart of the town’s transformation will run from the Heard Brothers garage complex on Queen Street, through adjoining buildings and open spaces, right into the heart of the retail district in Mill Street. This will create an interlinked complex of vibrant workspaces, a Community Hub working in partnership with One Northern Devon (a branch of the NHS), TTVS and 361 Energy, a cultural anchor, street food and micro-breweries and a range of open spaces – all under the working title of “Isaac’s Yard”. The plans also encompass a number of architecturally important buildings whose features will be preserved, enhanced and celebrated. One of these heritage spaces is a walled garden that will be open for the public to enjoy, right in the hustle and bustle of the town centre – an “oasis of calm” protected on all sides not only from the wind but also from the noises of the world around it. A perfect place for a lunchtime catch-up with friends, all the way through to a town centre festival.
Many Councillors spoke with admiration for the package of proposals being put forward, which many of them, along with the public at a host of engagement events, have helped to shape.
An outline of the scope of the project will shortly be available at www.bidforbideford.co.uk where the community can also express an interest to be kept informed of and get involved in future stages of the plans.
The next stage in the funding bid will involve a submission to Government by 31st July, with an announcement of successful bids expected in the autumn.