A busy final year for Wincanton Town Centre
As the South Somerset District Council Wincanton Town Centre Regeneration enters its final year, Councillors have agreed a new budget of £2.39m, which will enable the regeneration plans for the town to be completed by March 2023.
The recommendation for the revised budget was approved by Full Council on Monday evening (28 February).
The Wincanton Town Centre Strategy seeks to improve the attractiveness of the town centre by creating an environment where businesses wish to trade and spaces which people will visit and want to spend time. The project comprises a range of initiatives including physical infrastructure and property improvements, as well as softer interventions.
At the heart of the regeneration strategy are improvements to the public realm - widening footways, updating crossing points, complimentary planting schemes and other upgrades to enhance the attractiveness and safety of key locations in the town centre.
It has been a challenging year for the construction industry and local contractors. However, despite initial setbacks, designs are being finalised and tenders will be invited in early March for three public realm schemes:
- Market Place
- Carrington Way
- Central High Street
The approval of the budget will now allow a property grant programme to commence, with an initial call for applications at the end of March to property owners whose properties have been identified as requiring urgent and high level works.
Funding has already been awarded for 18 town centre events and activities with support from the grant programme. The grant supports events which have the potential to be viable in the longer term, helping boost town centre footfall and encourage people to visit the town centre and support local businesses now and in the future. Events successfully took place throughout 2021, with more exciting activities planned for 2022.
Councillor Henry Hobhouse, portfolio holder for Wincanton Town Centre Strategy, said: “Wincanton has a great character and a wealth of independent shops. I am pleased to see the regeneration strategy progressing with so many brilliant activities and events already taking place and increasing footfall to the town centre. With the public realm phase of the programme due to begin this year, alongside the property grant programme and further events that have secured funding, it is an exciting time for the residents, businesses and visitors of Wincanton.”
Why was a change to the budget needed?
When the original budget of £5.673m was approved in 2019, it included £3.2m for the anticipated purchase and redevelop the White Horse (a long time vacant Grade II Listed coaching inn on the ‘at risk’ register). This involvement was always seen as a last resort that would only come into play if the commercial market weren’t bringing forward a solution for the site. Since the current owners acquired the site, they have been actively engaging with planning to bring forward a solution for the building. So the position now is very different to that in 2019.This means that, although the overall budget figure reduced, the actual capital available to deliver the rest of the programme remains broadly the same.