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New commercial and cultural hub in Bromsgrove

Plans have been submitted for a new landmark development being proposed for Bromsgrove that seeks to build on the success of BirdBox to provide a new vibrant location and hive of activity for the community, businesses, and act as a catalyst for wider regeneration in the High Street.

Fomer Market Hall Site Aerial View Front

Contents


The proposal

A planning application for the proposed new commercial and cultural hub has now been submitted by the council's economic development service NWedR on behalf of the council, for determination by the Local Planning Authority.

An area containing two exciting new buildings and a greener public realm is proposed for the Former Market Hall site, to create better connectivity between and within key retail and leisure sites in the town, and encourage people to visit the High Street for a number of uses such as cultural and community events, business use, creative exhibitions, and socialising.

It will boost the local economy, in particular the High Street by increasing footfall for local businesses, and provide high quality, energy efficient and flexible office space to support business start-ups and co-working spaces. There is also a fantastic opportunity for a new food and beverage provider.

It has been designed by ONE Creative environments (ONE) working with NWedR on the council's behalf.

The 'pavilion' building

The pavilion will be a multipurpose community asset with an open plan ground floor encouraging creative exhibitions, markets, and community use during the day, evenings, and weekends.

Fomer Market Hall Site Front View Low

This area will open up to become an extension to the public realm and, sheltered by the canopy above, provide a large space that can be used by those that previously used BirdBox but now with protection from weather conditions allowing year-round use.

The pavilion will provide key community groups, including youth groups who currently lack provision in the town, with a base, and bring together local independent businesses.

The 'commercial' building

The second building has provision for a quality food and drink business on the ground floor to be able to add to the night time economy, provides outdoor social space within the newly created public realm, and includes some premium quality commercial office space.

Fomer Market Hall Site Aerial View Right

The upper floors provide quality, flexible, environmentally friendly open plan commercial office space, of a type that is not currently available in the town despite market reports suggesting high demand in the area (see Why it is proposed, below).

Consideration has also been given to whether a rooftop restaurant with external balcony could be included, to provide views of St Johns church and the wider public realm.

Public realm

New public realm around the buildings includes an opened-up and re-naturalised Spadesbourne Brook, public seating and landscaping. It will encourage biodiversity and public interaction with the watercourse, and continue the work BirdBox started to introduce more trees.

Fomer Market Hall Site Aerial View Centre

The design

The creative and innovative design conserves and celebrates the heritage of Bromsgrove and provides a modern landmark development to protect that legacy, for example through the use of metal work within the building to create striking street scenes that sit in harmony with the local area and celebrate Bromsgrove’s history of nail making.

The design of the buildings and external spaces make reference to Bromsgrove’s historical past such as nail making in street furniture and playscapes, as well as in intricate cut outs to the shading devices. These work with the environmental strategy to cool the building, but also provide interesting shading patterns within the building itself.

An exemplar low carbon project

Sustainability is central to the project vision and design process. As an exemplar low carbon project, it will be delivered to at least BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) 'Very Good' standard. This is a certification scheme that shows the quality, performance and sustainable credentials of the project.

While BirdBox started to introduce trees to this location, the site is currently an urban environment. These new plans include a greener public realm for year-round community use thanks to the shelter provided via the canopy and the inside/outside flexible design of the pavilion. An element of the culvert is also proposed to be opened up to encourage biodiversity on the site and public interaction with the watercourse for wellbeing purposes.

Fomer Market Hall Site Aerial View In Context

The design is low carbon, maximises renewable energy with air source heat pumps and a wealth of photovoltaic panels (PV), and maximises natural light.

To deliver these sustainable outcomes the wider design team includes Arcadis as Project Manager/cost consultant, and sustainability, ecology, heritage, highways and BREEAM consultants working collaboratively with ONE’s designers, landscape architects and engineers.

Sustainable transport

The development is in the heart of Bromsgrove town centre and will therefore be car-free. This will maximise the likelihood of future users, staff and visitors travelling sustainably to the new buildings.

The development includes free cycle parking, is adjacent to several bus routes and 300m from Bromsgrove’s main bus station, and is a 5 minute bus ride or 25 minute walk from Bromsgrove train station.

For those who need to drive, Bromsgrove’s existing car parking provision is available, including St. John’s street car park which is directly adjacent to the site.

A full transport assessment will accompany the planning application to ensure there are a range of travel options for future tenants, staff and visitors.

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Why it is proposed

This development will act as a catalyst to increase the viability, vitality and vibrancy of the town centre. The challenge is to bring more people to work, live and spend their free time in the town centre, attracting more people and increasing footfall.

This requires improving the type and quality of the offer in the town centre, to address the well-known challenges to high streets and town centres from market conditions and changes in consumer behaviour, such as shopping online. These challenges were already present before the pandemic, and were then exacerbated by it.

Any town centre must now offer things that bring more people to the high street, and for longer periods, for reasons other than 'just shopping'. Shopping alone is no longer enough, because so many people do so much of their shopping online.

That's why these proposals include:

  • Bringing more people to work in the town centre, through premium quality office workspace (sought-after in the area according to GJS Dillon’s Worcestershire Commercial Property Market Report 2023),
  • Enabling more people to spend their free time in the town centre, through spaces to enable fun experiences to enjoy
  • Attracting more people to the town centre, by increasing the overall offer through new opportunities for new types of businesses and experiences that are not already there.

Similar principles apply to our other Levelling Up Fund project, clearing the site of the former library and fire station on Windsor Street. That work will unlock the site for development that will bring more people to live in the town centre.

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Ownership and funding

The site is owned by Bromgrove District Council, which will own the buildings and everything else on the site.

How it's being funded

The government's Levelling Up Fund (LUF) has provided the funding specifically for the purpose of achieving these proposals. The matter of funding is settled.

The council got this funding by submitting a bid that met LUF priorities, objectives, and eligibility criteria, and that was able to deliver transformational change at scale by a deadline of March 2025. The bid had to score high to win the money against LUF criteria of characteristics of place, deliverability, strategic fit (with local and LUF priorities), and value for money.

Our bid, backed by strong evidence and a 'five case' model business case (strategic case, economic case, financial case, commercial case and management case), which was submitted on our behalf by our economic development and regeneration service NWeDR, scored high enough to win the money.

The principle of regenerating this site was established in town centre regeneration plans that already led to the redevelopment of Parkside, the High Street, the Bromsgrove Sports and Leisure Centre, Recreation Road, the bus and train stations, the new low-carbon homes on Burcot Lane, and more.

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Estimated timeline

WhatWhen
2023 Cabinet considers final report.
2023 Planning application is submitted (includes statutory consultation period).
2023 Planning Committee considers planning application.
2024 Subject to approval, construction work could start on site.
2025 Buildings could become available.

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Frequently asked questions

We will update this list with any questions we get asked often.

QuestionAnswer
Why didn't you apply for LUF money to pay to bring empty shop units back into use?

This would have been unable to secure LUF funding.

Delivery issues included that the council does not own or control any of the units, which belong to many private owners. There were issues with achieving 'transformational impact at scale' which would have required all the private owners to agree collectively to bring all their units back into use together under one plan. There was a very high risk that this could be delivered by the 2025 LUF deadline, if at all. It also had a lower value for money score, as it had fewer benefits than this proposed scheme (benefits-costs ratio).

Instead, the Council are acting as a catalyst to regenerate the High St as a place for people to work socialise and potentially live. This creates the enhanced footfall and hopefully the redevelopment of the empty retail units.

Why didn't you apply for LUF money to pay for a new cinema / NEXT / some other retailer?

This would have been highly unlikely to secure funding and may have been unlawful due to UK Subsidy Control rules over paying public subsidy to private companies.

Leading market experts and operators also advised that there is not enough demand for this kind of retail or leisure opportunity in Bromsgrove so it does not make sense to develop something which will not stack up financially.

The proposed development is designed to bring footfall which will act as a catalyst for investment in the High St.

Why didn't you apply for LUF money for Artrix?

This would have been unable to secure LUF funding.

No business case existed to support a LUF Artrix bid. There were also delivery issues, as the council does not own or control Artrix which belongs to a trust.

Won't this compete with Artrix?

The features of the pavilion building are not like Artrix.

Bromsgrove already has the facilities of Artrix and this is for different purposes.

Why didn't you apply for LUF money to build flats there?

This would have been unable to secure LUF funding.

Housing developments were not eligible for LUF funding. Enabling works, which unlock a site to allow development including for housing, were eligible for LUF funding. This is what we're doing at our other LUF site, the former Fire Station and Library on Windsor Street (see below for more on that).

Why don't you do (something else) instead of this?

Other options were considered. This is the option that secured the LUF funding.

How will the buildings and their functions be operated?

This is under review.

It is expected that a commercial property specialist will be procured to manage the marketing, lettings, rent renewals and facilities of the commercial building, while the pavilion building may be managed by the council's in-house property and leisure services teams or by a specialist service that will operate it for maximum usage by a cross section of the community.

Why aren't the buildings of a Georgian style architecture like some local buildings?

Georgian style architecture would be unsuitable this prominent, town centre site.

The sustainable modern office/workplace solution this project demands cannot be delivered here through Georgian style architecture. Instead, the materials palette uses locally sourced materials which compliment the surrounding buildings.

The design of the building has been developed in consultation with planners and conservation officers to ensure that it is appropriate for the surroundings but is also prominent, eye-catching and encourages visitors to walk the length of the high street.

Couldn’t you have used the money to reduce Business Rates instead?

Business Rates are set by the Government, not the council. We have to find other ways to drive footfall to make the high street a viable option for businesses, regardless of rates. Futhermore the LUF funding could not be used for this purpose.

Why is the site not being used as a new Market Hall?

A market hall is not a viable business model, which is why the previous two were unsuccessful. A High Street market also drives footfall to the High Street. The new site will build on the positive outcomes of BirdBox and provide an offering with more opportunities than a market hall.

Why are you creating more office space when Bromsgrove doesn’t need it?

Bromsgrove Town Centre does not currently offer this kind of space, other than small spaces above retail units. This new building is a modern, environmentally friendly design which provides the opportunity for flexible co-working, which based on research on the post-covid office market is required.

Why don’t you just #saveTheBirdBox?

The new building aims to provide the equivalent of an inside and outside BirdBox, integrated into a new revitalised public space which can be used for many of the same opportunities, making events more likely to take place even in poorer weather.

Does this project mean Waitrose will go?

No, and like other retailers on the High Street will likely benefit from increased footfall.

Why are you not spending the money on the eyesore that is Windsor Street?

LUF funding is also being used to fund demolition and site clearance work on the Windsor Street site (former Fire Station and Library site). That key abandoned brownfield site has been vacant for six years and, in a separate proposal to this one, derelict buildings will be removed to make way for redevelopment by a private residential partner. The two sites will provide very different offerings, creative employment opportunities and community spaces.

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Previous consultation (closed)

These proposals that now need planning permission were approved by the district council's Cabinet. Ahead of that, a consultation took place that closed on Tuesday 21 March, 2023.

Fomer Market Hall Site Walk View

That was part of a range of consultation as part of a highly collaborative process between ONE, NWedR, the council, Arcadis, and stakeholders, to capture the views of all user groups, including:

  • The general public,
  • District council members and officers,
  • Retailers and other businesses,
  • The Bromsgrove Society (heritage),
  • The Bromsgrove Independent Traders Group,
  • Local groups,
  • Residents.

Thank you if you have already taken part and had your say in helping to shape this work so far.

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