The town of Kirkham is in the Borough of Fylde in Lancashire, England, midway between Blackpool and Preston. It owes its existence to Carr Hill, upon which it was built, and which was the location of a Roman fort. It has a population of about 7500 folks.
Now, Kirkham has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be transformed as part of an ambitious £10 million regeneration masterplan.
That is the resounding message from MPs, council leaders and local businesses after it was officially confirmed the historic Fylde market town is to receive a £6.3m grant from the Government’s Future High Street Fund (FHSF).
The funding will now be used to purchase and breathe new life into several key properties in the town centre – together with a range of improvements to public spaces.
Added to multi-million-pound funding already in place, secured through Kirkham’s status as one of Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HS HAZ), the FHSF grant means it is all systems go for the Kirkham Futures masterplan.
This four-year plan, led by Fylde Council’s regeneration team in partnership with Lancashire County Council and Kirkham Town Council, includes:
- Developing a new Heritage and Eco Skills Centre in the former Hillside restaurant;
- Creation of an Arts Centre and Community Cinema in the former TSB bank;
- The purchase of the Kirkgate Centre allowing for the development of key empty shop units and the creation of new affordable town centre housing;
- The restoration and improvement of traditional shop fronts and homes within Kirkham’s Conservation Area;
- The enhancement of public realm and outdoor spaces;
- Encouraging businesses to relocate/set up in the town centre;
- Development of new restaurants and creation of a thriving and diverse night-time economy; and
- Creation of a wide range of cultural and leisure activities.
Fylde MP Mark Menzies, who met with ministers throughout the process to make the case for Kirkham’s bid said: “This is a once-in-a-generation investment in our town, and I am delighted to see the Government confirm the funding for Kirkham.”
“The schemes being brought forward, following great work by Fylde Council, Kirkham Town Council and traders, will help revitalise the town centre. I was delighted to highlight the bid with ministers. Congratulations to all involved. I am already aware of several new businesses enquiring about premises in the knowledge we are investing in the town centre – better times are most definitely ahead for Kirkham,” he added.
The Future High Streets Fund was launched in December 2018 and is a key part of the Government’s plan to renew and reshape town centres – making them a more attractive place to live, work and visit.
The process to purchase the Hillside, Kirkgate Centre and former TSB Bank buildings can now go ahead, subject to council approval.
Fylde Council’s regeneration team is currently working with a number of leading consultants – based both here in the UK and the USA – in preparing business plans covering the many projects which make up the Kirkham Futures masterplan.
Fylde Council leader Cllr Karen Buckley said: “I am absolutely thrilled Kirkham has been awarded this Future High Streets Fund grant and I want to say a big thank you to everyone involved, especially the hard work and dedication of our Regeneration Team. As the only Lancashire authority to receive the FHSF we are really punching above our weight and flying the flag for Lancashire.”
“With this grant we will deliver on the Government’s commitment to ‘build back better’ in Kirkham, spending millions on creating a vibrant, attractive high street and delivering trailblazing projects like the Heritage and Eco Skills centre at Hillside which will not only bring new people into Kirkham, but also create new green jobs and train citizens of all ages in sustainable, low-impact living,” she continued.
It is hoped the Heritage and Eco Skills Centre will restore the beautiful Grade II listed Hillside building to its former glory and become a nationally important training base for traditional crafts, construction and environmental skills – attracting students from both the UK and overseas.
The creation of a potential community cinema and arts hub, together with the development of new housing, leisure and cultural activities, were among the key priorities raised through public consultation when Fylde Council put together its FHSF bid.
Heidi Hopkinson, co-owner of Serendipity House gift shop on Poulton Street and Chair of Kirkham Business Group, said: “There is a real buzz about Kirkham right now – it’s just brilliant. What this Government funding does, as well as pay for the many wonderful regeneration projects now underway, is act as a real catalyst for more investment.”
“New businesses have already opened on the high street, and there are many more to come which will help not only build on our retail offer but also help create a popular and more diverse night-time economy. There is a real renewed positivity and there is no doubt Kirkham is a town on the up – it’s wonderful to see!” she concluded.
Millions of pounds will also be spent on improving the town’s public realm, including paving and lighting in the historic Market Square and surrounding streets.
The confirmation of Kirkham’s FHSF grant, together with the work underway as part of the Heritage Action Zone, is already having a positive effect on the town centre.
Deputy Mayor of Kirkham Cllr Elaine Silverwood said: “There has been real excitement around town since the announcement of the successful bids of the Heritage Action Zone and Future High Street Fund. The residents and businesses are delighted to see their town receive the huge investments that will result in such positive improvements. Fylde Council’s regeneration officers have worked tirelessly to secure the grant and also to ensure the ongoing stages run smoothly and seamlessly.”
Kirkham is one of nine areas in the North West to benefit from a total of £102m worth of funding as part of the Government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF).
Announcing the FHSF funding program, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “This funding is part of wider support we are providing to communities and businesses, to protect jobs, support the most vulnerable and ensure no one is left behind as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. This investment will make a huge difference to towns and cities across England and transform themselves in desired places to shop, visit, live and work.The Future High Streets Fund will support towns, communities and businesses as we get back to enjoying the best of what the high street has to offer.”
Photo of Kirkham courtesy of Kirkham Town Council.