Yeovil Refresh continues – Public realm designs in final stages
The detailed designs for the public realm enhancements (how the area will look overall) of Yeovil town centre as part of the Yeovil Refresh project are in their final stages as work on the project continues.
Despite fears that the financial impact of Covid-19 would put a hold on regeneration projects across South Somerset, it was announced last week that the new leisure centre in Chard was continuing to take shape and work will still continue with the Yeovil Refresh project.
The Yeovil Refresh project aims to create a town centre that will be a vibrant place to live, work, shop, learn and visit, with a number of key projects being delivered as part of the work.
As part of that work, we have been looking at how the public spaces (public realm) can be improved to enhance the experience in the town centre for everyone. Final technical designs are being worked on with key partners and are expected to be unveiled in the near future.
Key to the standard of delivery of the public realm works is funding from the Future High Streets Fund which South Somerset District Council successfully bid for earlier this year and is awaiting to hear how much funding we will be awarded that will contribute towards the public realm works. Each design has been specified to a ‘gold’, ‘silver’ and ‘bronze’ standard and depending on the award of funding from central government will depend on the standard of finish.
Further work has also been undertaken as part of the project including looking at access to the town centre which we hope to be able to give more details on later in the year.
The project continues to be delivered as South Somerset District Council continues to help support residents through the Coronavirus crisis.
Since the lockdown was announced the council has:
- Provided support to more than 5,500 households facing hardship
- Provided business rate relief to 1,764 businesses with a value of £25 million
- Provided business grants to more than 2,800 businesses with a total value of more than £33 million
- Extended its customer connect service hours during the week and moved it to a seven day a week serviceand helpline to assist those impacted by the lockdown
- Phoned hundreds of potentially vulnerable residents to check if they need help and support
- Worked to get all rough sleepers off the street and support 180 homeless residents in temporary accommodation
- Set up a completely new service –the Wellbeing Hub – which has provided more than 800 boxes of food and essential supplies to shielded people, vulnerable, those facing hardship and children entitled to free school meals
- Coordinated and supported a network of community and voluntary groups to ensure everyone has access to help in their community
The cost of supporting the district through Coronavirus has been high and SSDC is currently calling on the Government to ensure it is fairly funded for the additional steps it has taken to help our communities and to compensate for any lost income.
Despite work continuing, the impact of Covid-19 has meant that some work has slipped slightly. Construction work was expected to start in early summer however this is now likely to be late 2020 once contractors have been appointed. A sequence of works is also being planned which we will want to share with you later in the year.
Councillor Peter Gubbins, executive portfolio holder for Yeovil Refresh, said: “We know the impact that Coronavirus has and will have on the High Street in town centres so we need to make sure we are doing all we can to support businesses and attract new ones to help the town centre of Yeovil.
“Enhancing the public realm will help to attract people to our town to shop, live, work and leisure. This sort of work is going to be crucial to the recovery of local businesses and the economy and that is why we will continue to deliver this project despite the impact we have all felt over recent months.
“We are in a strong financial positon due to our transformation and commercial investments but it’s important that we urge the Government to fairly fund SSDC to ensure that our communities are not unfairly hit by the impact of Coronavirus as district councils lead the economic recovery of the region.
“We are confident our bid to Government as part of the Future High Street Fund will achieve a good level of investment for the public realm works, but by investing millions ourselves into this work, we are confident that it will create a much better experience for all those that use the facilities now and in the future.”
What is the Yeovil Refresh project?
The Yeovil Refresh project aims to create a town centre that will be a vibrant place to live, work, shop, learn and visit. Working with consultants and key partners, South Somerset District Council has been exploring how it can best invest in Yeovil’s future.
Consultation events were held in 2018 to help us identify priority projects. Here’s a recap of what you told us:
- You'd like to see the main high streets kept clean and better kept with nicer planters and other greenery, while keeping the streets from being too cluttered.
- You'd like to see improvements in vehicular and pedestrian access into the heart of Yeovil for locals and visitors
- There are concerns about some vehicle access to parts of the town centre (in particular on Middle Street)
- You'd like to make the town's open areas more appealing, using the space that is available to encourage visitors.
From the feedback obtained, the following priority projects were set:
- Assessing further pedestrianisation of parts of Middle Street.
- The creation of a Public Realm Design Guide to help shape the use and look of open spaces in the town centre
- An assessment of access to the town centre
- A review of car parks in Yeovil (assessing current and future provision, cycle parking, electric charging points and more)
Yeovil Refresh projects will be delivered over a 4 to 5 year programme with an early priority given to the initial priority projects above.
Why are you investing time, money and effort into regenerating Yeovil town centre?
Yeovil is the primary market town in South Somerset and when you visit, we want you to have a great experience so that you want to come back.
But it’s not just about visiting the town centre; we want to provide opportunities for people to live there, with a mix of housing so that residents will shop local and create a vibrant town centre that other people will want to visit and retailers will want to be a part of. Offering a variety of choice to dine is also important and will help independent and national businesses to flourish in Yeovil.
You can find out more about the Yeovil Refresh project at www.southsomerset.gov.uk/yeovilrefresh.