Ambitious £93.8 million plans to continue the transformation of Coventry city centre and Coventry Station have been given the go ahead in the countdown to 2021 when the city is UK City of Culture.
Coventry City Council’s planning committee has granted permission for an £11.8 million scheme to improve the Upper Precinct and the £82 million Coventry Station Masterplan.
Both exciting schemes have received £30m funding from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP).
An eye-catching central pedestrian area in a framed courtyard style design complete with planting, landscaping, water features, seating areas and timber terraces will be created in the Upper Precinct after the plans were submitted by Shearer Property Group and a fund advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
The existing escalator and footbridges connected to West Orchards Shopping Centre will be demolished to re-establish the view to Coventry Cathedral and the canopy outside the former BHS building and the ramp near Ernest Jones will also be removed. A 75-room student accommodation block will be created in the Upper Precinct.
Preparation work will start on Monday (November 19) to get the area ready for the major work after Christmas.
From December 17, there will be no vehicle or pedestrian access through Barracks Way which is the walkway from the car-park alongside Clintons Cards. Shops will be open and trading as usual and alternative arrangements will be made for people to access the shops from Barracks Way.
Trees that have outgrown the space and, in some cases, started to lift the paving around them will be removed – with new, more appropriate trees set to be planted as part of the new scheme.
The £11.8 million Upper Precinct project is being part-funded by Shearer Property Group, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Coventry City Council and a number of grant funders including £7.75 million from the Local Growth Fund.
In addition, Coventry City Council has also approved plans for a two-phase development of Coventry Station which was opened in 1962, to create a new gateway to the city ahead of 2021 when visitors from around the world will be travelling to the area.
The first phase to construct a new footbridge and canopies and an access tunnel under Warwick Road is already underway as part of the £82 million scheme which is being funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority, the CWLEP, the Department for Transport and other borrowings.
The second phase involves building a multi-storey car park for 633 vehicles, a new station concourse with access to all platforms and Warwick Road, and a new pedestrian route via an access tunnel under Warwick Road to a new bus interchange.
Coventry City Council is working in partnership with Network Rail, Virgin Trains and other rail operators, Transport for West Midlands, Friargate Coventry LLP and other stakeholders to deliver the scheme.
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration at Coventry City Council and CWLEP board director, said: “It’s been a while since we had this level of investment in our city approved in a single planning committee – but now we have the green light to crack on with these two important city centre projects.
“Our work in the Upper Precinct will help to reinstate it back to something much closer to Donald Gibson’s original plan. We will ensure we retain the very best of the old whilst creating an environment appropriate for the way people want to enjoy their city centre today.
“The railway station is the fastest growing outside London with passenger numbers increasing year-on-year so we need a station that can cope with increased demand and provide the right kind of Coventry welcome.”
The Council will be writing to traders in the Upper Precinct to outline what will be happening and when and will be setting up drop-in sessions early in the New Year to outline the plans in more detail.
Zamurad Hussain, CWLEP board director, said both schemes were vital in attracting more leisure and business visitors to Coventry.
“As 2021 nears when Coventry is proud to be the UK City of Culture, these investments will help to showcase the city in a positive light to regional, national and international visitors,” he said.
“The Local Growth Fund is designed to help drive forward economic growth, support businesses and create jobs and having modern infrastructure in place will help to achieve that.
“Connectivity from Coventry to other parts of the region will be improved once the new station is completed and it is important to create the right first impression to the city since the number of train passengers has tripled since 2003 and it is expected to double again by 2043.
“Now the plans for both schemes have been approved, work will start immediately to push forward the building programmes to ensure they are completed on time ahead of 2021.”
Stuart Carr-Jones of J.P. Morgan Asset Management added: “We are very excited the consent has been granted to upgrade and modernise the Precinct. This initiative capitalises on its central location and excellent footfall to deliver a better environment for Coventry’s patrons and retailers. We have welcomed this opportunity to work in partnership with the Council and now look forward to delivering the project as soon as possible.”
Stewart Underwood, Director of Shearer Property Group, said: “We are delighted the scheme has been approved. This marks the culmination of two years’ hard work and the beginning of the next step in Coventry city centre’s regeneration. This will bring about the much-needed transformation of Coventry’s prime retail area and completion of the works is scheduled safely in time for 2021 City of Culture.”