Whitchurch Town Centre Improvement Project
This brief overview was been produced to provide Whitchurch Association members and trustees, Steering Group and Town Council Members with a digestible understanding of the bid made by the Whitchurch Association to SEEDA. A copy of the detailed submission is held on file by the Whitchurch Association.
Following the successful submission of a preliminary proposal in September last year, the detailed submission for SEEDA Rural Towns Programme (RTP) Funds to match the £120,000 provisioned by HCC & BDBC was made to the SEEDA HMTP panel on 5th June. The Whitchurch Association was represented by Harriet Titcomb (Chair); Denyse Coles (Trustee) and Stewart Parrington (Leader of WA section, ‘Working 4 Whitchurch’) supported by Tony Corbin (Town Project Officer - Hampshire County Council) and Richard Wareham (Lead Officer Regeneration & Design - BDBC).
The four elements of the bid, outlined below, arise out of the findings of the Town Healthcheck and more recent review and consultation with stakeholders, local authorities and the residents and businesses within Whitchurch and the surrounding villages. The most recent ‘Have Your Say’ survey, issued to all households in the Town in April, yielded over 400 responses and a 93% level of overall support for the project as proposed. (A report detailing the results and actions arising is here. )
The bid package submitted to the SEEDA rural Towns Programme assessor and HMTP panel members (during w/e 25th May) included the following documentation:
- SEEDA RTP forms 1, 1A and 2. These forms explain in considerable detail the aim of the project, list the key deliverables, explain how the project will be managed and how the work packages receiving SEEDA match funding will contribute to the RTP eligibility criteria. A Town Centre Improvement Manager – a part time role for the duration of the project – will be responsible for submitting the monthly claims to SEEDA for the work done
- Appendices – a total of twelve appendices supporting the bid include statements of support from the Town Council, Basingstoke & Deane and Hampshire County Council (the latter two also confirm the amounts of funding being provided); Artists Impressions of the Public Art scheme (Community Rocks); examples of the proposed Tourist and information signs; an outline for the ‘community e-work business support centre’: a summary of the April consultation and the project financials in terms of forecast spend and apportionment across the three funding schemes.
At the heart of the Whitchurch Town Centre Improvement Project SEEDA bid were the following four elements:
Element One - Visitor Economy
Measures include Brown Tourist signs on the A34 trunk road (Whitchurch By-Pass); a new Town Amenities Guide; more events; new trails and an innovative community centred public art initiative (e.g. the ‘Whitchurch Neighbourhood Rocks’) that will create added media interest and further raise the Town’s profile. The visitor information on the Town Website will also be enhanced to include a video snapshot of the Town.
Element Two - Town Centre Built Environment Improvements
This will include Town Square repaving, making footways safer and more disability friendly; improving the appearance and increasing the capacity of the Bell Street car-park; removing unattractive street clutter and grants to improve Town Centre business property fronts (Paint Your Town Initiative)
Element Three - Business Help & Support
A locally determined, agency delivered programme providing locally delivered business support and advice to start-up and especially small, businesses, with a focus on encouraging greater retail business use of ICT and e-commerce including via the community website. The community e-work centre will encourage less out-commuting and additionally act as a serviced office/meeting place for start-up and micro businesses.
Element Four – Town Centre Improvement Manager
Appointment, for the duration of the project, of a part time Town Centre Improvement Manager tasked with coordinating, monitoring and reporting the progress of the individual work packages. This individual will also champion the town and ensure momentum is maintained.
A slide presentation was used to introduce and outline the Whitchurch bid before questions were posed by the SEEDA HMTP panel members related to the detailed submission.
After considering, in private, the recommendations of the independent bid assessor, the panel unanimously approved the Whitchurch Bid. The panel has, however, made some additional recommendations. These mainly relate to the securing of the evidence needed to determine the precise form of a local business support programme – including the proposed e-work centre - and related to the process form and % of grant contribution that may be awarded for qualifying improvement work to owners or landlords of Town Centre business premises.