'We want a thriving high street': £16m funding for Brierley Hill regeneration
A lifeline of up to £16million will be spent on regenerating Brierley Hill’s struggling high street, the Government has announced.
The town is one of more than 100 areas chosen to receive a share of £1bn from the Future High Streets Fund.
Empty shop units in Brierley Hill will be turned into new shops, offices and housing, under the regeneration plans.
The announcement was made as Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, met with members of the community in Brierley Hill yesterday, alongside Dudley South MP Mike Wood and Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley.
Mr Wood said: “This initiative is fantastic and much needed. Brierley Hill has a very proud past.
“While we know the significant and very real challenges that the town faces, we know it has got incredible potential for a bright, successful and prosperous future.
“There is massive investment coming in to Brierley Hill - from the quarter-of-a-billion-pound government investment in the tram line to the new music institute and the DY5 Enterprise Zone.
“But really, town centres and particularly high streets are absolutely fundamental to local people’s identity.
“We want a vibrant, thriving high street in Brierley Hill. That will mean looking at what we can do to bring more people in to shop, to live, to work, so Brierley Hill is a place that people want to come to.
“And that is what will create the jobs, the prosperity and also bring the community together.”
Brierley Hill is the latest Black Country area to receive a slice of the funding - following in the footsteps of Wolverhampton and Walsall last month.
So far each successful applicant has received an initial £150,000 to put together a businesses case.
Then, each application will bid for much more funding, with a cash pot of between £2m and £25m available to each one.
Dudley Council made a bid for £16m back in March. However Mr Wood said any decision on the final figure in Dudley will not be made until after Christmas.
The cash will also be spent on regenerating older buildings, improving transport links and bringing in private investors into Brierley Hill.
It comes as several ambitious projects are already taking shape in Brierley Hill.
The town is awaiting the arrival of the Midland Metro, with the new tram line set for completion by 2023, while work is underway on a £9.5m music school on Brierley Hill’s Water Front.
And the DY5 enterprise zone, set up two years ago to boost trade, has reaped rewards by creating hundreds of jobs created.
Council leader Patrick Harley said: “To have anything from £2m to £25m would be fantastic, especially if we can get near the higher level.
“The high street is very run down and on its knees. We need to bring some life back into that high street.
“We also need to sort out the connectivity between Merry Hill Water Front and Brierley Hill High Street, because there is three parts to Brierley Hill.
“And we need to make a connection between all three as fluid as possible.
“Then we can eradicate those problems which will mean you have got more footfall through the town centre.
“Obviously we want to see more residential on the high street then, so we have got a captive audience who live within the retail that we have got.
“Then they can spend money on the town centre rather than businesses just relying on passing trade.”
Mr Jenrick added: “We know that consumer habits are changing and people are shopping more online. Across the country that is putting more pressure on town centres and we need to come up with local strategic plans to help them evolve and change.
“You have got a town centre shopping, the Merry Hill shopping centre, which has sucked some of the lifeblood out of the high street for a very long time.
“On top of that, you have now got these bigger changes of people shopping online. That is creating a lot of changes for people who shop on the high street.
“Brierley Hill is exactly the kind of the high street that we want to see this new investment coming in to, and hopefully it will give it a surer footing going forward.”