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Ambitious and exciting plans to improve Chard town centre unveiled

| Your Area West

Work is pressing ahead with exciting plans that will help to regenerate Chard town centre and see improvement to the town centre’s street space in conjunction with the new leisure centre project.

The regeneration of Chard has been a priority project in SSDC’s Council Plan for a couple of years and 2021/22 will see a number of key deliverables come together to see real progress in the town centre. These include the completion of the new leisure centre and then also the start of the first phase of the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) work.

The HSHAZ work will initially focus on the development of public realm space in the town centre; that’s the streets and public spaces around the shops that can be improved. Final artists’ impressions of these works can now be viewed online on the new Chard Regeneration website.

Above: Artists' impressions of what the public realm works could look like once completed. Top left - Holyrood Street. Top right - Fore Street. Bottom left - Eastern Gateway. Bottom right - Boden Street.

Details of the public realm improvements which will create a better environment worthy of Chard’s historic character can now be unveiled and following feedback from the public and businesses at a number of consultations held since 2018, SSDC will:

  • Improve the setting of the Guildhall, moving the bus stop slightly west to provide enhanced views of this significant building
  • Widen sections of pavement on Fore Street and Holyrood Street to provide easier movement of pedestrians, improved accessibility, safer crossing points and potential for markets, café seating or other events, as well as reducing the dominance of traffic
  • Replace tired concrete, brick and tarmac paving with high quality natural stone in Holyrood Street, near the Guildhall on Fore Street and at the ‘Eastern Gateway’ (junction of Fore Street and Silver Street)
  • Enhance the setting of the unique water rills which run through the town
  • Construct a new footway along Boden Street between Costa Coffee and the Boden Street car park, creating a safe pedestrian route to and from the town centre and connecting to the leisure centre. The road will be narrower to allow for this, and will therefore become one-way northbound between Commercial Row and Fore Street.
  • Plant new trees and beds to add more greenery to the urban setting
  • Make safety improvements to the junctions of Marketfield and Boden Street car parks, to increase visibility for drivers pulling out
  • Declutter street furniture and create new cycle parking and seating areas.

Councillor Jason Baker, portfolio holder for Chard Regeneration, said: “We are really excited to unveil plans today which we believe will enhance the experience of the town centre in Chard as a place to live, work and visit. All of the plans that we have been carefully working on behind the scenes are an amalgamation of feedback you gave us at our consultation events over the last couple of years, and we believe we have got the right blend of that feedback plus identifying work that will fit into the historic nature of the town centre.

“Of course, I can’t just stop at the town centre improvements. Work is continuing on the leisure centre and you will read that we are ensuring there is a clear link between the town centre and new leisure centre site that will make it easy for everyone to visit both. We are still on track for delivering the new facility later this year which will not only bring great benefits to the people of Chard and surrounding towns and villages, but also shows a great example of your District Council delivering local projects and investing in our town centres, making them stronger and more sustainable.”

READ MORE: Continuing to deliver our Regeneration Programmes for your benefit

The public realm improvements that are part of the HSHAZ project have been developed following a number of public and business consultation activities held since 2018, which told us:

  • The streetscape is lacklustre and would benefit from a refresh
  • There are many localised issues relating to poor repair and appearance, and access/safety issues
  • Fore Street is very linear and dominated by traffic – is there anything that can be done to reduce this
  • Many liked the free on-street parking however there was considerable support for a modest reduction to allow improved/expanded pedestrian environment
  • Strong endorsement for creating space for market stalls and public events
  • The Guildhall is the heart of the town centre
  • Concern that the leisure centre will become the “centre of town” and detract from the high street – need to strengthen links between the leisure centre and the high street
  • Many references to the idea of Holyrood Street becoming pedestrianised or more accessible
  • Concern regarding the external image
  • Considerable civic pride relating to the town’s heritage and abundance of historic buildings

The plans seek to address all these points. With almost the entire town centre of Chard being designated a conservation area and a number of listed buildings being located there, the public realm work will enhance the setting and SSDC plans to work with building owners to make repairs to town centre properties. £650,000 in grant funding from Historic England’s HSHAZ programme will be made available when the building repair grant scheme opens later this spring.

Because of its special character, Chard has been designated a “High Street Heritage Action Zone” (HSHAZ) and secured £2m funding to revitalise its town centre. £1m of Government high streets funding from Historic England has been matched by £1m by South Somerset District Council. These funds will be invested in making lasting physical improvements that enhance the historic high street.

The HSHAZ programme will have three strands – public realm improvements (that is, the pedestrian areas of the street), grants for the repair and renovation of historic buildings and shopfronts, and community engagement.

Ross Simmonds, Regional Director for the South West at Historic England, said: “Improving the public realm space in the Chard town centre is a critical component of the High Street Heritage Action Zone. Public spaces that truly work for a place can make all the difference, helping to make it more attractive and welcoming, and where people want to spend time and shop.”

Anna Matthews has been appointed as SSDC’s High Street Historic Action Zone Project Manager and will work with Historic England to ensure the programme is delivered and that Chard’s town centre will evolve into a place where local people and visitors want to visit and spend time once again. Anna said, “I’m proud to be working on such a fantastic project which will lead to economic benefits for the shops, businesses and residents of Chard.”

The detailed work which will lead to construction starting on Chard town centre’s public realm areas is now progressing through various technical approval processes and, assuming there are no delays, work will begin on-site in the latter half of 2021.

You can new view the new Chard Regeneration website which gives more information about the different projects including support for businesses, information on the leisure centre development and cultural aspects of the HSHAZ project. Should you wish to contact SSDC about the current work or public realm work, please email chardregen@southsomerset.gov.uk.

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