Stafford Borough Council was awarded £14.37 million from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund at the end of last year after its bid for cash to improve the town centre proved successful.
The council will also be contributing more than £5 million in co-funding towards the scheme.
Proposals include creating attractive meeting spaces to bring more people into the town centre for cultural events and other activities, as well as the potential relocation of the indoor market from its current site at the Guildhall Shopping Centre. But the Government windfall must be spent by March 31, 2024, a report to Thursday’s borough council cabinet meeting said.
It added: “The purpose of the borough council’s investment is to intervene to prevent further market failure in the town centre. This risk of an ongoing decline in the town’s core retail area results from a combination of a worldwide recession (in) 2008, changing patterns of shopper behaviour, the increase of retail internet spending and the results of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As a consequence, there is a need to reduce retail floorspace, increase the number of people living in the town centre (and) enhance the connectivity of key retail areas and transport hubs.”
Cabinet members welcomed the massive spend at Thursday’s meeting.
Council leader Patrick Farrington said: “To be able to ask for the authority to spend £20 million on our town centre is a wonderful thing to be able to do. As we all know the majority of the monies have come from central Government but there are contributions.
“It was a very complicated process – and because of coronavirus an elongated process – and we were competing against all other local authorities in the country. To be successful to the extent we have been is a remarkable achievement, both in terms of the hard work of the officers and the inspiration behind what we are seeking to do, but also it is much needed for our town centre.”
Councillor Jonathan Price said: “I know an awful lot of work went on behind the scenes and this is absolutely fantastic news. We hear a lot of people complaining about the state of our high street and they feel nothing is being done – if (only) they were aware of the amount of work going on behind the scenes, and how seriously this borough takes the future of the high street and the way it will look in the future.
“An awful lot of investment is coming into Stafford and we’re very lucky. I’m looking forward to seeing the plans and the things that have been proposed and I think it will make a huge impact on our high street.”
Councillor Mike Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, said: “This is £19 million – £14 million of which has come from Central Government. This council is putting in £5 million which should be noted.
“Unfortunately, because of the nature of the project, we can’t talk too much about it but I am sure when things start to come to fruition people will be very pleased indeed.”