The search for investors willing to develop prime sites around Kidderminster is proving “challenging” – but residents need to keep the faith and get behind the town’s vision, urged the district’s council leader Marcus Hart.
Key sites including the former Glades leisure centre, retail premises in Worcester Street, and the former law court and indoor market have been widely advertised for sale, in some cases for several years, but so far there have been no takers.
But Councillor Hart, Conservative leader of Wyre Forest District Council, said he remains upbeat that efforts to attract inward investment will soon reap rewards. The success of the riverside restaurant scheme on the edge of Weavers Wharf, and the 100% occupancy of Weavers Wharf itself, showed the town was capable of bringing in private cash, he said.
“Residents need to understand we are doing everything we can to attract investment but these things take time, often years.”
Top of the council’s hit list is the former Glades leisure centre in Bromsgrove Street, now flattened and fenced off.
Talks are at a “delicate stage” between a national cinemas developer and major movie chains to try to persuade one of them to open a multiscreen complex and food outlets on the site and adjoining car park.
If successful, this would be a massive boost for the town and would almost certainly trigger further development, likely to include the demolition of the former Woolworths building or one of its near neighbours to create a new open square and stepped walkway to link up Worcester Street and High Street to the new complex.
“We want to get a multiplex cinema on that site – that’s our aspiration. We are not there yet.”
Councillor Hart joined Wyre Life for a walkabout through Kidderminster to visit key sites and discuss progress on redevelopment opportunities at six locations:
- The redbrick, locally listed former law courts and indoor market buildings at the far end of Worcester Street, close to the Comberton Hill island and underpass. The site has been on the market for 15 years for commercial or residential use, with no sign of a taker. The site freehold is owned by Wyre Forest District Council, which means the council has to pay for its upkeep and ensure it is watertight and safe.
- Worcester Street retail street, currently blighted by empty shops, boarded up frontages and a general air of disrepair.
- The former Glades leisure centre site, now fenced off.
- Crown House, the 1960s office block once dubbed among the country’s ugliest buildings.
- Weavers’ Wharf shopping area
- Churchfields, a new housing development and road system close to Horsefair, on the edge of the town centre.
You can hear the full interview here in two parts.
The first part focusses on work now started to turn pedestrianised Worcester Street into a one-way road cutting across the top of town. The aim is that doing so will generate fresh interest in the street as a commercial and residential area.
Said Councillor Hart: “The town centre has drifted away from Worcester Street – by opening up the street we hope to encourage new developments, including residential opportunities.”
Attempts to generate interest in the redbrick former law courts and indoor market at the end of Worcester Street have so far foundered. “We have been trying to get interest in developing the site for 15 years,” said Cllr Hart.
“I think this illustrates how difficult it is. It is still on sale for commercial or residential development. The council has the freehold of the building, which is locally listed, but we do not have the expertise or funding to redevelop it. We have and are doing all we can to bring developers onto this site.”
In the second part of our walkabout interview, Cllr Hart voiced his frustration and anger over the future of Crown House, the towering office block in Bull Ring which was once dubbed among the country’s ugliest.
A demolition plan, funded by the current lease holders Telereal Trillium, foundered when the company decided not to sign the deal at the 11th hour. Talks to try to resolve the issue are ongoing.
But he also highlighted the success of Weavers Wharf and the new riverside restaurants project, and how the new Churchfields development would also add significantly to the town’s prosperity.