Rejuvenation projects in Swindon, Salisbury and Trowbridge will go ahead after grants were awarded through the government's Future High Streets Fund.
In Swindon, the 'bus boulevard' project – which will see the creation of a new bus interchange and gateway into the town centre – has received £25 million, which is the maximum for which councils were invited to bid.
Salisbury has been awarded £9.35 million to support a scheme to redevelop retail units in prime high street locations to create a cluster of small artisan retail and leisure units in the city centre, and to encourage young people to live in the centre, increasing footfall.
The Trowbridge scheme – which focuses on improving connections into the town centre, by bringing more leisure, residential and culture activity into the town centre, making better use of vacant units and accelerating the development of key sites in the town centre – has attracted £16.35 million of funding.
The project also aims to deliver a mix of cultural, leisure, co-working and residential opportunities within the heart of the town centre.
Swindon's Bus Boulevard scheme was developed by Swindon Borough Council with £3 million backing from Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. The council’s cabinet has also approved a contribution of £5 million in capital funding to the project.
The bid was backed by major landowners and transport operators. As part of the Bus Boulevard plans, all national and local bus services will be incorporated along Fleming Way, improving the experience of bus users and pedestrians, while the new road layout would complete the link between the Eastern and Western Flyer cycle routes.
Council leader David Renard said: “This is absolutely tremendous news for Swindon and is a real show of faith by the Government in our plans to transform our town centre.
“Strategically this is a really important scheme and will open up this whole area, making it much more accessible and attractive to potential investors. We recognised some time ago with the decline in retail on the High Street that we needed to transform our town centre and the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated that need for change.
“I am confident we will bounce back stronger here in Swindon and these plans for the Bus Boulevard will act as a real catalyst, increasing land values and unlocking the proposed residential development at Kimmerfields and the surrounding area.”
Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for the town centre, culture and heritage, said: “The importance of this decision cannot be underestimated for our town centre. The new bus station will address the design issues of the past where Fleming Way created a barrier between the town centre’s retail and business district. When finished, this work will help to create a place where people want to live, and where businesses want to invest.
“For the first time in over 20 years, we have cranes on-site building the first new office block in the town centre. One of the reasons Zurich chose to commit its long-term future to our town, and potential expansion, was because of our plans for the wider area, and this £25m is key to making it happen.
“More than 20 new shops have opened in the town centre in the last six months and, now we have this money agreed by the Government, we can push forward in 2021 with momentum and without the usual doom and gloom. We now need a positive decision on our multi-million pound Towns Fund bid during January to ensure that a big part of our 10-year improvement plan for our town centre can be delivered.”
Work on the Bus Boulevard scheme is expected to start next winter (2021/22). Over the next 12 months, a temporary bus station will be created within the Kimmerfields site and the John Street multi-storey car park off Fleming Way will be demolished as part of the wider overall plans.
The Trowbridge and Salisbury bids were developed by Wiltshire Council.
Cllr Philip Whitehead, leader of Wiltshire Council and cabinet member for Economic Regeneration, said: "We put together two attractive and comprehensive business cases and are delighted Salisbury and Trowbridge will be benefitting from significant investment.
"This funding will help us unlock the potential and reinvigorate both centres and make them more attractive places to live, work, visit and shop.
"High streets have faced a really tough time in recent years, and the pandemic will unfortunately only add to that, but this funding from Government will really benefit the local area. Overall this investment will help ensure both the high streets of Trowbridge and Salisbury continue to be the focal point of both communities."
The two successful funding bids will be used to reinvigorate the high streets of Salisbury and Trowbridge with a range of projects to attract visitors and businesses into the heart of the city and town.
The Future High Streets Fund was launched by the government in December 2018 to help revitalise town centres to ensure they can respond to the ongoing impact of both online shopping and out of town shopping.