Rochdale town centre could be in line for a grant in the region of £500,000, as Historic England announced it has been named one of just 8 'Heritage Action Zones' across the country.
'Support will focus on key areas like Drake Street'
The announcement marks the start of work to revive some of Rochdale town centre's most important historic sites, with the Drake Street area set to be at the heart of Rochdale's Heritage Action Zone (HAZ).
The HAZ also includes the Town Centre Conservation Area; with the aim of the project being to take the town centre off Historic England's 'at risk' register by looking at various options to try and bring some of its key historic buildings back to life for residential or business use.
'The 5 year project will officially start in May 2018'
Specialists from Historic England will work with the council to help form an action plan for the area, with the money only set to be granted if the action plan is approved by Historic England. The grant amount will be determined by the detail in the delivery plan, and confirmed in spring 2018. Subject to approval, the Heritage Action Zone will begin in May 2018 and run for 5 years to help regenerate the area. The council has also pledged £1m in funding to support the project and kick start the regeneration of the area.
The Heritage Action Zone will see the council working with Historic England and its partners to explore how historic properties can be converted into residential use. Work will also see the team explore potential new uses for other well-known local buildings, such as the old Rochdale Observer building and Fashion Corner.
'Rochdale is only the 2nd place in the North West to achieve the coveted status'
Rochdale town centre is only the 2nd place in the North West to be made a Heritage Action Zone, with Appleby in Cumbria being awarded the status when the project was first launched earlier this year.
The bid was developed by the council, with the support of the Co-operative College, the Co-operative Heritage Trust, Rochdale Development Agency, RBH and Link4Life.
John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: "Our heritage not only tells the story of our past, it creates great places to live, work and visit. The Heritage Action Zone scheme will make the most out of Rochdale's historic environment to kick-start regeneration, increase tourism and boost investment in our towns and cities."
Catherine Dewar, Planning Director for Historic England in the North West, said: "Rochdale has so much to be proud of, from its Cooperative Heritage to its town hall. However, some of its historic buildings are showing signs of neglect, but with a little investment and imagination they can become assets for the people of Rochdale to enjoy and for the town's economy. We are looking forward to working with Rochdale Council to increase awareness of what Rochdale has to offer and to make it easy for investors and developers to bring jobs, homes and visitors here."
Councillor Janet Emsley, Cabinet Member for Culture, said: "Drake Street is full of fantastic historic buildings, a number of which have a co-operative connection that has been lost. Unfortunately, despite it being a really important gateway into the town centre, it has lost its way in recent years, as the retail core has moved.
"That's why the support that Historic England has announced today is so important. It's the first step towards the revival of this incredibly important area. With stage one Heritage Lottery funding already approved for the new Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum in Maclure Road and other fantastic assets like Town Hall Square also in the Heritage Action Zone, this is an opportunity to build on work we've already done in these areas and create a fantastic link between these important heritage assets."