The £15-million transformation of Ashbourne town centre will start in 2023 after government today approved an exciting Levelling Up Fund bid.
“Ashbourne Reborn”, led by Derbyshire Dales District Council, was developed through close working with local partners who brought forward project ideas, identified opportunities and raised match-funding for the bid.
The partners include Ashbourne Town Team, Ashbourne Town Council, AshCom, Ashbourne Methodist Church and Derbyshire County Council.
News that the bid – submitted to government at the end of July – has been approved means partners can develop more detailed plans for the two-year development project focused on three distinct project areas.
The first is a series of transformed public spaces including Market Place, Victoria Square, Millennium Square and Shrovetide Walk, while the second project focuses on a new community hub, transforming the Methodist Church into a multi-purpose community building. The hub will provide a wide range of event and meeting spaces, a performance venue and flexible work areas with high quality digital provision.
New traffic management plans will transform the pedestrian experience in Ashbourne by widening footways and providing new and improved crossings as part of the third project.
District Council Leader Councillor Garry Purdy said:
"This is fantastic news and we can all look forward to transformed spaces in which events and activities can take place, bringing a much needed vibrancy – and indeed footfall - back to the town.
“This will be the biggest capital grant project ever undertaken by this council and I want to thank all partners for getting Ashbourne Reborn to this exciting stage where we can start to restore pride of place and create a new safe and vibrant heart of the town for the benefit of local people and visitors.
"There is much work to do, not least through the planning process, even before the first brick is laid and I want to stress this project will remain a partnership – that is absolutely vital.”
The project will get underway with the formation of a programme board to be chaired by District Council Chief executive Paul Wilson, and the appointment of a programme manager.
A key part of the project is to celebrate the town’s heritage. A wide variety of future events will bring new life to the centre of Ashbourne, creating an environment where businesses will want to locate and invest, and residents and visitors spend time whilst supporting the local economy.
There will be some necessary disruption to town centre traders during the transformation work, but Anne Wright, Chair of Ashbourne Town Team said:
"We are delighted that Ashbourne has been awarded Levelling Up funding which will enable substantial improvements in our town centre and start to deliver on the strategic plan we identified at the start of this process.
"We believe the public realm, traffic management and pedestrian projects, which are at the heart of the bid, will be transformational for the town. The success of this initiative is absolutely vital to kickstart the local economy and revive a positive experience in the town centre for residents and visitors."
Connections between town centre spaces will be improved and a comprehensive set of upgrades along Compton, Dig Street and St John Street will create a far better pedestrian experience, reducing the impact of vehicles and improving safety.
Councillor Simon Spencer, Derbyshire County Council’s Deputy Leader, said:
“I’m absolutely delighted that we have been successful with this bid. It will make such a difference to the town and I look forward to working with everyone over the next few years to bring our plans to fruition.”
Derbyshire Dales MP Sarah Dines, who supported the bid to help Ashbourne re-invent itself, said:
“I am so pleased to see that Ashbourne Reborn has been given the green light by government. This project will allow our historic and once-thriving market town to commence an exciting new chapter.
“There is still so much to do and I look forward to continuing to work with everyone to see our exciting plans for Ashbourne realised. I have been honoured to see this project grow from the very first conversations with stakeholders, to a fully endorsed project that will be significantly beneficial to our brilliant town.”
The package will ensure Ashbourne takes its rightful place within the regional visitor economy, providing an attractive environment that draws in residents, visitors and businesses and re-establishes its identity as a flourishing market town.
Sue Bridgett for AshCom said:
"This excellent news comes at exactly the right time for Ashbourne. These imaginative projects will bring just the boost that this great town needs and spur on the regeneration that will help it thrive and grow in the future.
"It is testament to the creative collaboration between the statutory authorities and the voluntary sector that this has managed to secure the level of funding necessary."
Ashbourne Methodist Church will become a community hub, offering a fresh, modern range of accommodation options for groups and families and an outdoor riverside garden event space, will also link to a range of sustainable transport options to improve connectivity, including charging for e-bikes and scooters and connections to the Tissington Trail.
Rev’d Nicola Briggs, Superintendent Minister Ashbourne Methodist Circuit, said:
“We are delighted that the Ashbourne Reborn bid has been successful. The funding will enable us to do so much to develop our buildings for use by the community and as a performing arts and events space. It will make a significant contribution to the revitalisation of the town centre.“We are so pleased to continue serving our community as we have been doing for over 200 years. Our Link project is about Linking Buildings, Linking People, Building Community.”
Ashbourne Town Council, which is also backing the transformation to ensure the town remains vibrant and relevant for the 21st century, said:
"We are delighted that the Ashbourne Reborn bid has been successful and the redevelopment of the Millennium Square under the element of the public realm will be a great improvement to the area and provide a meeting place for many."
The bid has been supported by the District Council's expert consultant Michael Rich, Bentley Project Management, and Lathams Architects.
Since the Levelling Up Fund (LUF) bid was submitted in July, work has continued by the District Council, its consultants and partners, in anticipation of today’s news.
Activity has included the establishment of shadow LUF governance arrangements, drafting role specifications for project staff, agreeing Heads of Terms for funding contracts, agreeing a communications strategy, reviewing project risk registers, and specifying detailed site survey requirements. As ‘Accountable Body’ for LUF funding, the District Council has already resolved to accept grant funds.
The full Ashbourne Reborn bid amount - £13.3-million - has been granted by the Government's Levelling Up Fund. The remainder of the £15-million project cost is made up from match funding.