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Major plans to kick start Blyth town centre’s renewal have moved a step closer as the County Council has been asked to support a near £40 million investment programme prior to a bid to the national Future High Streets Fund (FSHF) this summer.
A report going to the Council’s Cabinet states that subject to a successful FHSF application, the town centre development programme could be delivered from next year.
It will be made up of a combination of funding from the FHSF, the County Council and funding from commercial partners.
The council already has £7 million earmarked for the regeneration of the town centre over the next three years and the Cabinet is being asked to more than double this amount to kick start the renewal of the town.
If the FSHF bid is successful, the funding will support a programme which delivers a revitalised Blyth Marketplace and Bridge Street with new culture and leisure facilities in the heart of the town centre.
The town’s established reputation as a centre for the Energy and offshore wind industry will be bolstered by the development of a new research and education Energy Institute.
The programme also includes projects which focus on improving green space, cycling and walking improvements to better connect the town centre to the quayside and support an increase in physical activity whilst also ensuring the town is safe and welcoming to all users.
Blyth is currently one of 50 towns shortlisted to benefit from the Government’s £1 billion Future High Streets Fund (FHSF). Subject to cabinet approval a final submission to the fund will be made in July 2020. The County Council has been working as part of the Blyth Town Forum over the last year with public, private and community sector partners working together to back the ‘Energising Blyth’ vision.
Blyth Town Forum has engaged local users of the town centre with consultation carried out with businesses, the local community and schools including two drop-in events in the town centre which attracted thousands of visitors. Feedback has been used to inform the plans and further detail on the proposals will be unveiled next month.
A full business case for the scheme will be submitted to the government by the end of July and, subject to approval, would be delivered over three years from April 2021. The town is also set to benefit from the national Town Fund with further details on this to be unveiled later in 2020.
Plans for Blyth are part of the county council’s wider town centre investment programme which is working to boost the prospects of towns across the county.
Councillor Richard Wearmouth, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “This is a hugely ambitious scheme which will transform Blyth town centre, which has been in decline for a number of years despite the growing success of the energy industry in the town. “We want to attract more people to the town centre, whether that’s to live, work or visit. We need to encourage people to come and spend more time here by creating the buzz of a busy and thriving area. “Like town centres across the country times have changed and we need to address a whole range of issues, from how buildings are used, to how people get around - with an increased focus on green travel including more cycling and walking opportunities.
“With plans for two stations close to Blyth on the new Northumberland Line and a new relief road in the pipeline, along with new employment opportunities anticipated through investment at the Port and the new Northumberland Energy Park, this is a fantastic opportunity to revitalise the town centre for generations to come.”