Town centre’s landmark shop buildings could be transformed into market and living space
Stafford Borough Council is set to buy the former Co-op Department Store building as part of plans to rejuvenate the north end of the town centre.
The Co-op Department Store closed in 2013. Earlier this year the derelict building was damaged in an arson attack.
But it is now set to play a part in ambitious regeneration plans now under way in the county town. Next week Stafford Borough Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the purchase of the former department store building.
Proposals for the site, set to be discussed at the October 5 cabinet meeting, include a mix of residential and retail use, with space to accommodate a market. Relocation of the town’s indoor market from its current home at the Guildhall Shopping Centre is being considered as part of the town centre improvements being funded by the Future High Streets project.
Stafford Borough Council secured £14.3m from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund in December 2020, under the authority’s previous Conservative administration, and council contributions have increased the budget to more than £21m. One of the projects – the £1m restoration of Market Square – is due to be completed within the coming weeks, with the first event on the revamped events space set to be the return of Stafford Walking Street on November 2.
Work to improve the approach and entrance to Stafford Railway Station is also due to begin soon. The concourse is set to be refurbished, while public short stay parking will be relocated and there will be more disabled parking facilities close to the station.
Council leader Aidan Godfrey said: “We have made improving the town centre our top priority and we are determined to push ahead in making our vision become a reality. The renovation of the Market Square is nearly finished and work is due to start soon to make the railway station approach – the gateway to our town centre – more inviting and accessible for visitors to Stafford.
“Developing this substantial and derelict building is yet another piece in that transformation jigsaw. I am really pleased we now have the opportunity of purchasing the former Co-op building with exciting ideas to bring it back into use.”
The councillor’s deputy leader and Stafford Borough Independents group leader Rob Kenney, whose cabinet role includes leading the town centre regeneration, said: “This is just the start of delivering a town centre fit for the county town, that residents will be proud of, businesses will want to invest in, and visitors will come to shop, eat and drink, socialise and spend their free time. We are pushing forward with our regeneration plans with greater urgency.
“Local people have waited long enough to see something happening. Purchasing this prominent, disused building in the heart of the town centre, with the chance to create a retail, residential and leisure offer, is a huge statement of our intent.”
Labour councillor Godfrey, who became the leader of the new administration following the May elections, has previously spoken of the need to make improvements to the north end of the town centre to bring back footfall. And Green Party councillor Tony Pearce highlighted the area’s plight at a meeting in April.
He said: “The centre of Stafford, and especially the north end, is populated with empty shops and a general air of neglect which must act as a deterrent to those thinking of visiting and shopping here. Whilst the work on the Market Square will help, it comes after years of neglect with a complete failure to properly maintain and repair it.”