In the latest of his articles concerning matters in and around Trowbridge, Council Leader Councillor Stewart Palmen answers your questions about the town’s ‘Future High Street Fund’ bid . . .

If we haven’t already done so by the time you read this, all of us in Trowbridge will soon learn whether the town Trowbridge will gain any funding following our bid earlier this year to the Government’s “Future High Street Fund”. So, I thought it would be useful to look at what this fund is exactly, and what it could do for the future of Trowbridge . . .

What is the “Future High Street Fund”?
The fund totals £1 billion, that the Government has allocated to help regenerate the high streets of towns across the UK.

How many places will it help?
Well, over 100 towns and cities made it through the first stage of the bid and then all submitted final bids.

Will all of the successful bids receive the same amount of money?
Any funding awarded will be allocated depending on the strength of the bid, so some will inevitably get more than others: sadly, some could end up getting nothing . . .

So, how much did Trowbridge bid for?
The average amount bid for, assuming all bids were equally valid,  would have been in the region of  £10 million. But we believed when we submitted our bid that the case for Trowbridge was, and remains very strong, and to that end we asked for £23.85 million.

What kind  of things will the money go towards?
There are four “theme” areas we are trying to address with the funding. These are:

1)  Better movement and legibility at the town centre gateways

2)  A unique and culture-and-leisure-led offer

3)  A resilient and diverse High Street

4)  Unlocking good growth

Sorry, that sounds like waffle! What does it all mean?

OK –  let’s ‘unpack’ each one . . .

1) Better movement and legibility at the town centre gateways
This involves further pedestrianisation of Fore Street and Wicker Hill, more sensible signposting for both pedestrians and vehicles (wayfinding). Improvement of the River Biss area making the walk from the rail station to St Stephen’s Place. It’s generally felt that this will be a real asset to the town.

2)  A unique and culture-and-leisure-led offer
Town centres now, more than ever, need to provide so much more than just retail outlets and also to become more experiential. Plans would include further investment in the refurbishment of Trowbridge Town Hall (for example, opening up the ballroom) and encouraging links with The Civic. Also the reactivating of nearby vacant properties to create artisan market type space around the front of Castle Place, particularly the façade of the former Sir Isaac Pitman pub.

3)  A resilient and diverse high street
We need to achieve a more compact and vibrant high street by relocating existing retail units in Castle Place to vacant shops along the high street (we will never need the level of retail we used to have as so much of our shopping is done online or via large supermarkets). We will also encourage conversion of units to facilitate a wider range of shops moving into the area and convert empty upper floors for residential use through a programme of grants. Also, the plan is to set up guidelines that the town needs to develop to ensure sustainability.

4)  ‘Unlocking good growth’
A comprehensive redevelopment of Castle Place would include a large leisure facility, residential, co-working spaces and a small retail element. A new potential location for the Chamber of Commerce is also being considered. Sadly, we have to face the reality that Castle Place is unlikely to ever be full of retail outlets again. It would make more sense to relocate some of those businesses to the vacant units in Fore Street as previously mentioned.

So that is a very brief overview . . .

A lot of that sounds really good, but does it mean we will lose our multi-storey car park?

Potentially yes, but no detailed plans have been produced and a full transport and parking review for the town would be part of any actual planning application and I envisage a lot more free car parking being available. I personally think Trowbridge deserves better than this (it has to be said) not fit for purpose car park, but there is plenty of debate on this and it should not be allowed to provide a distraction from all the other great things this bid can hopefully bring us.

I am sure that this article will raise more questions, so please do not hesitate to contact me via email at stewart.palmen@wiltshire.gov.uk or call me on 01225 753479.