Friday, June 21, 2024

High speed shopping street transformation set for approval

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Senior councillors will on Thursday be asked to approve a March 2025 deadline for the regeneration of the town centre’s King William Street.

The work, using a grant from the government’s High Street Accelerator Programme, aims at revitalising the road and surrounding area.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive board has also been recommended to approve the schedule of works for the scheme.

Key elements of the proposal are to create a more flexible, open and safe space, with sustainable planting and a new architectural play feature.

The street will be made more welcoming and greener to improve its appearance

The three main entrances to the Mall are set to be ‘greened’ to make it look nicer and encourage footfall, and planters, benches will be repaired or replaced and obsolete ‘street clutter’ removed.

Street furniture would be used to manage the risk of ‘hostile vehicles’ and to stop unauthorised parking, with creative lighting which aims to make the space safer and more welcoming after dark.

Pavement cafés would be enhanced to create a pleasant al fresco dining experience, with more planting also planned on link streets – New Market Street, Town Hall Street and Lord Street – to make the surrounding areas more attractive.

Existing large trees would be maintained to ensure their health, and a volunteer programme introduced to encourage active engagement in green space and boost maintenance, biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental education and well-being.

Cllr Quesir Mahmood has set out the planCllr Quesir Mahmood has set out the plan

The proposed regeneration programme has been welcomed by Conservative group regeneration spokesman Cllr Paul Marrow and the leader of the borough’s 4Bwd group – which is now the main opposition party – Cllr Mustafa Desai.

He said he hoped the project would make King William Street ‘a honeypot for residents, shoppers and visitors’.

A report by the council’s growth boss Cllr Quesir Mahmood says: “A series of environmental improvements and initiatives to enhance the King William Street area will be developed and delivered over the next 10 months.

“The High Street Accelerator programme was launched by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in 2023.

“The pilot programme provided £237,000 of funding to 10 areas to test different activities aimed at reviving traditional high streets.

“Blackburn was selected as one of the 10 pilot projects.

“The King William Street High Street Accelerator Partnership was established in January 2024 to help advise the council on developing projects to address footfall, the loss of traditional retail, and improve the night-time economy.

Opposition leader Mustafa Desai welcomed the planOpposition leader Mustafa Desai welcomed the plan

“Each pilot project was offered the opportunity to apply for an additional £500,000 to address environmental issues and to deliver greening projects that would meet the changing needs of the high street.

“The partnership developed a proposal for the maximum £450,000 capital and £50,000 revenue funding to meet the funding criteria. This has now been approved by DLUHC.

“The level of funding is modest given the scale of challenges and opportunities, but the funding will complement and support the delivery of a variety of other planned capital projects.

“Blackburn town centre already has a strong track record of delivering projects of this nature, and a good understanding of the challenges of King William Street, so it is very much the expectation that the project will provide positive outcomes.

“The council is expected to complete expenditure by the end of March 2025.

“This is a tight deadline, however, the majority of the expertise needed to deliver the project exists within the council and any additional professional services needed have already been scoped and can be procured quickly.

“King William Street and its environment has an important part to play in the continued growth and vitality of the town centre and in particular in supporting an enhanced cultural and leisure offer.”

Cllr Marrow said: “We welcome this investment in Blackburn by the government and hope it will revitalise this key street and the surrounding town centre.”

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