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Future High Streets Fund - our bid for Whitehaven

In July 2019, Copeland Council was invited to submit a bid to the Government for investment for Whitehaven as part of the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF).

An outline of the business case that we have developed was made public on Wednesday, May 13.

What is proposed?

Developing a community digital hub

We propose to convert 6 Duke Street – the former Whittles building - into a community digital hub. To see an artists' impression, click here.

Making the most of the C2C

We propose to develop a cycle hub on the former Barclays Bank site, offering bike sales, bike hire, e-bikes, bike storage, repairs, juice bar and guided tours. To see an artists' impression, click here. The hub would be linked with a seafood restaurant with cycle-friendly accommodation on Marlborough Street. To see an artists' impression, click here.

This would improve the start of the C2C as a flagship of the town, drawing in leisure and cycle tourism and make the most of Whitehaven’s position of hosting three national cycle routes and linking into our Connecting Cumbria's Hidden Coast opportunity.    

Creating residential opportunities

We propose to develop residential opportunities, focusing on the needs of young professionals and our post-graduate students, with access to communal leisure and workspace.  

Developing the streetscene and public realm

We propose to develop connections between King Street and the harbour, with new arcades created between King Street and Strand Street offering food court, artisan and small-scale leisure spaces

These connections would be supported by enhancement of the public realm along King Street and the extension of the “Streetscapes” concept along Strand Street. This would support pedestrian users and the creation of safe cycling routes, connecting the harbourside start of the C2C with the off-road route that takes the cyclists on their journey.

** All the schemes outlined above have a business plan under development to ensure that proposed uses are feasible and sustainable. Please note that due to commercial sensitivity, we are unable to provide further details on all the locations of the proposed schemes at this time. We will update this page as we are able to release more information.

Objectives

The FHSF scheme objectives for Whitehaven are:

  • To visually and physically connect the retail centre and the harbour through creating arcades;
  • To increase footfall and improve pedestrian flow onto the main retail street;
  • To manage traffic flow and prioritise pedestrian access between retail and leisure areas, creating safe cycleway connections;
  • To improve viability by diversifying the town centre through creating a broader mix of uses and space for start-ups and investment;
  • To increase the availability of modern SMART living accommodation within the town centre, especially for younger generations, and
  • To support town centre sustainability through increasing footfall on weekends and evenings based on the leisure and the night time economy.

How will it be funded?

The potential level of investment into the town will be approximately £25 million, with a request to the Government for around £15 million.

We have secured £1,056,649 from the Local Growth Fund through Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership to acquire land and buildings to enable a strong case to be made to the Government that we are in a position to deliver its FHSF scheme.  

We have also committed £601,483 of our own funds to support delivery of the scheme. 

We are currently in discussion with partners regarding the remaining match-funding.

How has the council arrived at these plans?

Following a successful Expression of Interest in FHSF, we were informed in July 2019 that our application had been selected to go forward into the next phase of assessment and were invited to develop a full business case for capital investment. 

To assist us in the development of our business case, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) provided a Delivery Manager and a grant of £150,000, against which Sellafield Ltd matched with £50,000, to provide additional capacity and resources to support the submission and appoint external consultants to provide the technical expertise. This was to ensure that our submission covers the five stages of the business case model (strategic case, economic case, financial case, commercial case, management case) required by Government. 

We established a Steering Group, bringing together our Mayor, Executive and leadership team with officers from Economic Development, Property and Development Control to support reporting and decision-making during the development phase of the bid.  Cumbria County Council is also represented on the Steering Group to help develop a business case that is supported and delivers across the objectives of both authorities. 

The group consulted with stakeholders, residents via a survey (click here to see the results) and young people via a series of events with apprentices, graduates and school pupils (click here to see the results).

A full drop-in style consultation for the wider public was planned in March but had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

Key themes within the emerging business case include connectivity and diversification, as the scheme intends to create a more cohesive town that utilises King Street and the harbour as a united space and offers residents, workers and visitors new and high quality experiences – from the basics of world-class customer service and great food to innovative digital leisure, culture, health and wellbeing.  The intention is to bring in more footfall from residents using new services and leisure; from workers relocating businesses into the town and from visitors to the area that are coming to stay and experience the new opportunities on offer.

Any investment from Government under FHSF is expected to fall under the following themes:

  • Investment in physical infrastructure;
  • Acquisition and assembly of land including to support new housing, workspaces and public realm;
  • Improvements to transport access, traffic flow and circulation in the area;
  • Supporting change of use including (where appropriate) housing delivery and densification;
  • Supporting adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology.

What happens next?

The deadline for our submission is June 5.

The start date will be determined by MHCLG, but we do not expect an announcement before Autumn 2020. If we are successful, the scheme will be delivered over four years.  

To make a comment on the proposals, email communications@copeland.gov.uk or write to us.