Bold proposals unveiled for Wychavon’s town centres
New visions for the future of Wychavon's town centres have been unveiled that are set to transform them in the years ahead.
Investment prospectuses have been drawn up by Wychavon and consultants CBRE, setting out how the council will work with partners and the community to rise to the challenges facing Droitwich Spa, Evesham and Pershore.
All three town centres are facing a perfect storm of issues that are putting them under pressure, including the aftershock of the Covid-19 pandemic, a permanent increase in home and flexible working and more people shopping online.
To meet those challenges, town centres need to switch from being just a place where people go shopping and become more about somewhere people have shared experiences, spend their leisure time and live.
The prospectuses have been created based on consultation with a range of partners, including local businesses and Worcestershire County Council.
Each town has its own prospectus. They look at everything from the way people move around the town centre to improvements to the physical appearance of the place.
In each town a series of Game Changer sites have been identified. These are sites that have the greatest potential to bring about change. Not all of them are owned by Wychavon, so discussions and partnerships with landowners and the private sector will be crucial.
The main aim for Droitwich Spa is to promote the town as a spa and leisure destination building on the lido, brine baths and bespoke events such as Salt Fest. New leisure opportunities based on health and well-being will be created to diversify the offer beyond retail. The development of high-quality town centre living offers an opportunity for regeneration.
The Game Changer sites for Droitwich Spa are:
- Redeveloping the Union Lane (Baxenden) site, Netherwich Basin and Fire Station sites into a new urban village offering canalside town centre living. As well as housing, the opportunity includes cafes, shops and a permanent home for the Pamela May Canal Boat and Museum.
- The St Andrew's Centre offers an opportunity to create a more experimental retail offering including new independent shops and eateries, as well as extended opening hours beyond 9am to 5pm.
- The High Street has huge potential for transformation to create the right environment that encourages footfall and people to spend more time in the town centre. Improvements to the physical appearance, such as new seating, are proposed as well as closing the space to allow events and markets to take place and turning vacant units into pop-up shops to broaden the appeal of the town to families, young professionals, day-trippers and tourists.
- Capitalising on the town's uniqueness is key. There is a need to make more of Droitwich Lido when marketing the town and exploring options for a permanent restaurant on site. Plans by the Friends of Droitwich Lido to turn it into a National Lido Centre or National Open Swimming Centre would help put it on the map.
- Bringing the Brine Baths back would support Droitwich Spa's well-being offer alongside the Lido and beautiful award-winning parks.
- Droitwich Spa has much to offer tourists around the town and there is a need to develop key attractions in the town centre as well as make more of existing ones. Making more of the museum, Norbury Theatre, heritage trails and an expanded events programme are all opportunities to position the town as a health and leisure destination.
Among the strategic objectives for Evesham is an aim to develop the town as a leisure destination and a great day out by making the most of its picturesque River Avon setting. Developing new events and attractions as well as tapping into the town's unique position near to the Cotswolds to increase visitor numbers.
In Evesham the Game Changer sites are:
- The redevelopment of the Riverside Shopping Centre into a modern, mixed-use development of up to 70 homes, alongside retail and leisure space. This will also open up views of the River and Abbey Park, reconnecting the jewels of the town's rich heritage assets with the high street. There will also be improvements to the appearance of Bridge Street. The Public Hall will also be brought back into use as a new arts centre. Wychavon and Chase Commercial Ltd, owners of the Riverside Shopping Centre, are working on this joint venture.
- The former Aldi and Oat Street Car Park, Chapel Street Car Park and Cowl Street Car Park will be redeveloped into the Chapel Quarter. This site will provide space for new homes and some apartments, with improvements to the appearance of Chapel Street and Cowl Street, including tree planting, to create an attractive walking route connected to the town centre. This will only take place once a comprehensive car parking strategy has been carried out to identify alternative provision.
- The High Street will be rebalanced to become more pedestrian-friendly, with the creation of active travel links for walking or cycling. There will be a step-change in the appearance of the High Street to make it more visually appealing and traffic calming measures to reinforce the fact the space is firstly for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Tree planting will be re-introduced along the High Street, including the introduction of rain gardens and new seating areas to create a more inviting environment people want to spend time in.
- Enhancing the Riverside Parkland offers an opportunity to reconnect the town with its greatest asset. Crown Meadow will remain the town's key events space, and the aim will be to expand on the current events programme. The Christmas Tree Farm site could become an active community space with natural and wild play spaces, allotments and orchards and additional walking trails. New trails could be introduced within Corporation Meadow and community play spaces focused around Abbey Park and Hampton ferry crossing.
The strategic objectives for Pershore include re-embracing the River Avon and reconnecting it with the town centre as well as building on Pershore's vibrant and varied events programme and independent retail and food and drink offer. Making sure new communities springing up around the town are physically and emotionally connected to the town will also be important to encourage them to spend time and money in the place.
In Pershore the Game Changer sites are:
- The Pershore Market site offers an opportunity to create a new landmark development that transforms the arrival into the town from the High Street, Avon Meadows and the River Avon. Two potential options are presented for the site. One includes the creation of a new modern food hall serving local produce, a modern and refreshed Pershore Market, high-quality improvements to the physical appearance of the site and a new 75-bed extra care facility. The second option includes expanding and diversifying Pershore Market, new housing including an extra care facility and other mixed uses.
- Broad Street has the potential to be transformed into a pedestrian space that can also be used to host some of Pershore's regular events and expand the programme. A new permanent car parking arrangement could be maintained within Broad Street while also allowing enough flexibility for alternative uses as well as places to sit, relax and experience what the town has to offer.
Cllr Bradley Thomas, Leader of Wychavon District Council, said: "Our town centres have been under pressure for some time and the prospectuses represent a positive vision for the future of each of them.
"This isn't about what Wychavon wants to see happen but rather a shared ambition based on what we have been told by various stakeholders. The prospectuses offer interpretations of what's possible but that doesn't mean they are set in stone.
"Wychavon isn't in charge of all of the Game Changer sites, so to make this vision a reality there needs to be a real drive from the public and private sector, and our communities, to make this happen. The prospectuses will be a powerful tool to attract investment from Government and the private sector into our towns.
"We can't go back to how we did things before the Covid-19 pandemic. The future for our town centres is limited if we do that. But by thinking differently about our places, reimagining what's possible, being bold and working together they have a bright future. Today is the start of that journey."
People can find out more about the proposals in each prospectus and watch Wychavon's short explainer videos at www.wychavon.gov.uk/town-centres