WORK is to start soon on a £2 million revamp of Kidderminster’s neglected Worcester Street, which will open up to traffic in a bid to revive interest in the area.
Lines have been drawn – literally – in the battle to regnerate the area, with coloured lines setting out utilities, pedestrian areas, seating and direction signs in readiness for highways workers to begin in earnest next month. (October) It is unlikely to finish until next autumn.
The plans, designed to breathe new life into the street, have received a mixed reception so far – but among those warmly welcoming the investment are Steven Swift and Marcus Allen, who have become the first new tenants this year for the once-thriving thoroughfare.
Their glass and black fronted Teach Me Music Academy, situated next to Vibe hairdressers, officially opens on Saturday (September 29th), when visitors can try out instruments, meet the tutors, join in a jam and enjoy free drinks and nibbles.
The soundproof studios and welcoming reception are already open for one to one instrumental tuition. The venue also advises people on best buys and sells some instruments, including a wall of guitars.
The team of professionally qualified tutors, all holders of music degrees and additional qualifications, teach piano, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, ukelele, cello, violin, saxophone, music production and music theory.
They cater for all ages – “our youngest student is five and our oldest at the moment is 71,” says Steven. They also teach all levels, from complete beginners to advanced professionals.
Steven, 28, from Kidderminster, first discovered a love of music in his teens, going on to study at Halesowen College before taking a music degree at University of Wolverhampton. After working as a professional freelance musician he set up the business a couple of years ago, operating from home, before deciding to take the plunge and open the new premises.
Together with co-owner Marcus, they have ploughed in savings and taken business loans to cover their set up costs. Now they hope the business will flourish, supported by their team of graduate tutors who each specialise in one or two instruments.
While roadworks taking place immediately outside their doors for the next 12 months will not be the best start for them, they hope the completed project will enhance the area and help attract more businesses and shoppers to the street.
WORCESTER STREET PLANS: RISE, FALL AND RISE AGAIN?
Kidderminster’s Worcester Street was once at the heart of the town, home to Woolworths and Littlewoods among other household names of the 1970s-2000s.
It was part of a market town teeming with local shoppers, their pockets filled with the earnings from the thriving carpet industry.
But in recent years its reputation has taken a tumble, with increasing numbers of empty premises, interspersed with charity shops and bargain retailers.
The creation of Weavers Wharf and Crossley Park retail parks, and the recent closure of the Glades leisure centre, has tilted the town centre towards the canal side and away from its traditional heart.
But Wyre Forest District Council has ambitious plans to redress the balance.
First up is its scheme to open up the length of Worcester Street to traffic. The detailed plans were on display at Kidderminster Library and showed artist impressions of how the road would look.
The full plan, below, shows the key points along the road. From bottom to top, it runs from the foot of Worcester Street (the cul-de-sac area in front of the Boar’s Head pub), up to the junction dissected by Prospect Hill and Marlborough Street, and then along Worcester Street until it emerges into Coventry Street and Blackwell Street.
Key points to note include:
Prospect Hill, from the former Glades down past the School Shop to the crossroads with Worcester Street, will remain one way.
From the crossroads, it becomes two way along Marlborough Street (currently one-way). This means traffic from Marlborough Street and Prospect Hill can both access Worcester Street.
You can see the current junction in the photos below:
The road then sweeps along Worcester Street, with two areas of on-street parking, before reaching the currently pedestrianised square at the top of Vicar Street. The current seating area under the trees will go and be replaced by bicycle ramps and seats; new paving will be laid to blend the new scheme into the existing pedestrianised areas of town.
The aim of the scheme is to reinvigorate Worcester Street. At present the street has at least 10 empty retail units and an abundance of charity shops and bargain stores.
The fate of the former Woolworths building is also believed to be under discussion, with a range of suggestions including demolition and opening up the area to provide a new landscaped market area leading through to the new multiscreen cinema and parking planned for the former Glades area.
An announcement is expected soon on the cinema plans, with discussions under way with a national chain and associated leisure outlets.
At a meeting earlier this month Wyre Forest District Council agreed to increase its contribution to the scheme from £500,000 to £825,000, using earmarked reserves, because of a funding gap identified in detailed design work. The whole scheme has doubled in cost, from an estimated £1 million to £2 million.
Councillor Chris Rogers, Wyre Forest District Council Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Planning, said: “This is the second phase of the improvements to Kidderminster town centre following the £2m invested in partnership with the County Council to improve the public realm in Vicar Street, High Street and Exchange Street.
“The District Council is committed to improving the town centre through works such as these and through the regeneration of the Lion Fields sites as part of the transformation of the town centre offer to support businesses and increase footfall.”
The page reveals the project is expected to be completed by autumn 2019, and will include 12 new short stay, half hour, parking spaces along with five loading bays and four disabled parking spaces.