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Council approves £8.75m spend on second phase of Cannock town centre regeneration

The second phase of transforming Cannock town centre has moved forward after senior district councillors granted permission to spend up to £8.75 million – but a request to Government to adjust plans will not be decided on until after the General Election.

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Cannock Chase Council secured £20m from the first round of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) in October 2021, with a deadline of spending the money by the end of March 2025.

The ambitious scheme put forward to regenerate the town centre included re-development of the former multi-storey car park and indoor market hall site to create a new cultural hub which included the refurbishment of the Prince of Wales Theatre, as well as a business workspace, creation of a “northern gateway” with new public realm and commercial space and a retirement living complex.

An artist's impression of a public open space in the Cannock Town Centre development plans submitted to Cannock Chase Council

The total cost of the scheme was estimated to be £44m at the time, and in February 2022 the council committed a further £17.2m, with the remaining £6.8m expected to be met by an unsecured private sector investor for the retirement living complex.

But due to the “volatility” of construction costs and inflation, “the total project as originally set out is not currently deliverable within the previously approved budget”, a report to the latest cabinet meeting said. It added that the compulsory purchase order process to acquire land needed for the regeneration had affected delivery of the project.

It added: “Officers have worked with the design team to undertake a review of the scheme. This process resulted in two distinct phases of development being identified, the first of which was reported to Cabinet on March 28, 2024, where permission to spend was granted.

“The first phase of works includes activity within the current footprint of Cannock Shopping Centre. These works were capable of progressing in advance of phase 2 but remain part of the wider vision for the town centre.

“By approving phase 2 works, subject to DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities) approval, the council will enable the creation of an investment for the private sector within Cannock town centre.

An artist's impression of the proposed new Theatre Cafe in the Cannock Town Centre development plans submitted to Cannock Chase Council

"Should Cabinet be minded to progress with phase 2 (subject to DLUHC approval) members should be aware that there will be no available capacity or capital to deliver other projects across the district and that if they choose not to proceed then the remaining LUF budget will be lost.”

At a cabinet meeting on June 12, members were asked to grant permission to spend up to £8.75m on actions including acquiring the Forum Shopping Centre for demolition, acquisition and partial demolition of retail units along Church Street, Market Street and Market Hall Street and public realm works.

"The council has submitted a project adjustment request to the DLUHC, which includes a request for a 12-month extension to the project timescale to enable the authority to complete phase 2 of the works, but a decision will not be made until after the General Election in July.

Dean Piper, Head of Economic Development and Planning at Cannock Chase Council, said: “Cabinet have approved the proposals for phase 2 of the project, however the start of this phase is subject to DLUHC approving the project adjustment request. Without this we can’t proceed.

“The second phase of the project includes a wider area within the town centre which brings forward a different scheme to that originally envisaged. Phase 2 is now focused on creating opportunities that will hopefully be a catalyst for investment from developers into the town centre.”

In March, councillors gave the go-ahead for £9m to be spent on the first phase of work, including improvements to Beecroft Road car park, and the creation of the new Northern Gateway to improve pedestrian access into the town centre from Beecroft Road car park.

The decision also enabled demolition of the old multi-storey car park, which is due to start later this year.

The report to Wednesday’s cabinet meeting said: “DLUHC have clarified with the council that the original spend deadline for the LUF grant of March 31, 2025, relates to demonstrating substantial progress by March 31, 2025. Colleagues from the DLUHC have confirmed that planning and subsequent implementation of phase 2 of the Cannock Town Centre Regeneration programme should be progressed at pace.

“The commercial transactions will enable the council to secure vacant possession ahead of proposed demolition works. Due to the council negotiating agreements with the relevant landowners, (it) no longer needs to pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order through to public inquiry.

“Since the funding was awarded in 2021, the town centre has seen further decline with just one tenant operating in the Forum Shopping Centre and an increase in vacant units along Church Street. Most notably, Boots and Barclays Bank have recently closed which is further impacting on footfall within the town centre.”

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