The Tavistock Townscape Heritage Initiative (Tavistock THI) is a Heritage Lottery Funded project. Its aim is to restore important historic buildings and public spaces in order to ensure that the rich historic built environment of this beautiful town is protected.
The THI project is focused upon the central part of the historic market town of Tavistock which is a Conservation Area and World Heritage Site, these designations reflecting the town's historic importance. It is this valuable heritage that supports the economy of the town, drawing in visitors and investment. In 2014 the Heritage Lottery fund approved an investment of £980,000 which will be match funded by the owners of the properties and the partners.
The Tavistock THI project has been brought forward by a partnership between the Local Authorities (Town, Borough and County), local businesses (through groups like the Chamber, BID Company, Business Association) and community groups eg Tavistock and District local History Society, Tavistock Forward, Tavistock Subscription Library end Tavistock Museum. The partnership was set up in 2008 and has overseen the preparation of the Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Plans, both these having been reviewed as part of the Stage 2 development phase involving extensive public consultation.
Meanwhile, LDA Design from Exeter, were appointed to prepare a Public Realm Strategy and bring forward specific proposals for the those public spaces which form part if the THI scheme area – around the Pannier Market, in front of the Guildhall and in the Bank Square/King Street/Market Street area.
The Town Council has agreed to be the Accountable Body for the scheme and has appointed an experienced Project Manager Katharine West to lead the delivery phase following the successful bidding process.
Now the project is in the delivery stage a Project Management Board has been appointed including a mix of community, business and expert members to lead the Tavistock THI strategically. In addition a Grant Panel consisting of local community representatives and Councillors is being created to consider each application as it comes in and
currently six property owners are working with the Project Manager to assess the scope of the work required with an aim to bring forward applications early in 2016.
The rationale behind the THI investment
Over a number of years Tavistock has suffered from a lack of investment in the heritage infrastructure and a declining confidence among the business community. The town depends to a considerable extent on its retail businesses and tourism which have both been declining in recent years. Local income levels and productivity have remained low while house prices remain high compared to local wage levels. Some of the properties and public areas in the central area are now in a critical, dilapidated condition and this will have a negative impact on the economy unless the deterioration is halted and prompt remedial work is undertaken. The THI fund will pump prime investment in this area and is urgently needed to inspire confidence in the area, reverse the impact of the economic downturn in the fringe areas of Market Street, West Street and King Street. This economic regeneration aims to encourage more investment in the town and as confidence increases improve employment prospects thus ensuring that the historic core of the town is one of quality, ultimately improving the towns civic pride, visitor numbers and footfall.
Over the next five years the aims of the THI project are to:
The key buildings which require investment are situated around Bedford Square which is an outstanding group of buildings of high architectural quality thanks to the planning by successive Dukes of Bedford from the early nineteenth century. One of the critical projects is the Butchers Hall, which will undergo a programme of repair which will bring this unique, publically owned building back into economic use.
As well as these critical projects, a further nine have been identified as likely to be at risk if repair works are not carried out soon. The other priority projects are within West Street, Market Street and King Street, the medieval streets lined with historic buildings which still remain within the Tavistock town centre. The majority of the owners and tenants of these eligible properties have expressed an interest in seeking grant assistance towards the cost of carrying out the urgent repairs needed to their properties. In some cases the re-instatement of lost architectural detail, particularly on shop fronts, can be achieved with grants allocated at a higher rate, these higher funding rates are being justified partly because this work is unlikely to provide any uplift to the value of these properties and, therefore, these works are unlikely to be undertaken by the present owners.
The Tavistock THI funding investment will assure that these historic buildings can once again flourish to the wider benefit of the town and enhance its appeal to visitors and residents alike. In turn this will encourage further investment and increase economic activity leading to better opportunities for employment in the town and helping to regenerate the commercial heart of the town.
The public spaces within the Tavistock THI area will also be improved taking advantage of the Available THI funding. The area surrounding the Pannier Market has become degraded and cluttered with unsightly additions. This will be upgraded and enhanced, with mainly resurfacing works, and the adjacent Guildhall Square will also benefit from improvements. These public realm works aim to establish a high quality historic setting to set the context for the important nearby buildings and spaces, improving pedestrian movement, and meanwhile, maintaining accessible and safe car parking.
The security of all public funded grant monies invested via the Tavistock THI scheme is assured by the claw-back of funds from beneficial owners, or tenants, who sell the improved properties following restoration within specific time restrictions, thus assuring the public investment is not abused.