Stafford Borough Council is to buy the town’s old Co-op department store as part of their major transformation plans for the area.
The council successfully secured more than £14 million from the government to transform the High Street in Stafford.
With the £1m restoration of the town’s Market Square nearing completion, and work expected to start this Autumn to improve the approach and entrance to Stafford Railway Station, the pace of change is increasing - and the council has announced it is to buy the former Co-op building as the next phase of their ambitious programme.
The large building on Gaolgate Street has been derelict for a number of years and plans to be discussed by senior councillors include a mixture of retail and residential use along with improved facilities to accommodate a market inside.
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.”
Councillors will be asked to give the go-ahead to purchase the building as part of the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) programme at a meeting next week (5 October.)
A report to the council’s cabinet will say that negotiations to buy some property in the town centre were made difficult because the Government announced how much money the local authority received from the FHSF.
Following the government announcement some ‘absentee’ owners of premises in the town had been in contact asking ‘unreasonable’ prices for their buildings - however positive and realistic negotiations around the Co-op was one of the reasons it was coming forward for re-development.
Earlier this year, Councillor Godfrey appointed Councillor Rob Kenney as deputy leader with a mandate to lead on revitalising the town centre - which he said was the ‘number one issue’ for local people.
Councillor Godfrey continued: “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.”
There is significant investment being made in the county town with other projects underway or recently delivered such as the Staffordshire History Centre and the business hub at Shire Hall, which is reaching full capacity, and plans taking shape around the Stafford Station Gateway and Eastgate areas.
Councillor Kenney 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.”
Staffordshire County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills Philip White said: “This is fantastic news and further demonstration of our councils taking the lead and being the catalyst for regeneration in the town centre. One of our priorities as a county council is to work closely with partners to revitalise our town centres across Staffordshire. These are exciting times for Stafford with new businesses being attracted in the Shire Hall enterprise centre which opened last year and work on the multi-million-pound Staffordshire History Centre underway.
“The purchasing of the Co-op is another example of the raft of projects that have been under development over the last three years to ensure we have a thriving county town and making it a more attractive place to live and visit for work and leisure.”
The full report to cabinet will be available from today (Wednesday 27) www.staffordbc.gov.uk/cabinet
Confidential discussions are still taking place around other changes to the town centre which will form part of the Future High Street Fund project.
Press Release No 6070