The multi-million pound Worksop regeneration projects underway as part of 'radical' plans to resurrect the town
‘Big, radical’ plans to transform Worksop and capitalise on the town’s vibrant heritage and culture are steadily taking shape, with a number of regeneration projects firmly in the works, kicking off or nearing completion.
Towns and cities across the UK were dealt a devastating economic blow with the arrival of the pandemic and Worksop already grappling with changes to shopping trends and the loss of big names from its high street, was no exception.
It’s easy to feel defeated, but officials working tirelessly to revitalise and restore Worksop have this message for the weary: “We have big plans, some of which are quite radical – watch this space.”
The key to maximising potential, they say, is to change how people view and use the town centre.
Councillor Jo White, cabinet member for regeneration at Bassetlaw District Council, said: “Like most town centres across the country, we’ve experienced a loss of big name shops along with an increase in people shopping on the internet and travelling to out-of-town shopping centre. All this has been on steroids as a consequence of the pandemic.
"It’s down to the local authority working partners and business communities to intervene and to make a difference.
"We need a town centre, it serves as an important hub for any community. But in light of changing shopping habits, the use of town centres need to change.
"It’s about people coming into the centre of Worksop to have other experiences rather than just shopping.”
One of these ‘new experiences’ is set to land in the form of a new £3.95m business hub at the site of the previous Middleton’s store at the top of Bridge Street.
The Middletons project will see a number of dilapidated buildings transformed into a multi-purpose employment hub that will hopefully create employment opportunities, offer new start-ups and small businesses a place to grow and thrive and bring increased footfall to the town centre.
Preserving Worksop’s history during building work has been a priority for townscape heritage officer Jane Harrison, who believes the key to attracting new businesses lies in the restoration and conservation of Bridge Street’s iconic buildings, many of which are centuries old.
She said: “The Middleton’s building is Grade II listed, so we’ve taken steps to retain many original features while modernising it. It's a real architectural mix of new and old.”
Progress on the project, which aims to attract a ‘different type of person’ to Worksop, had been halted by the pandemic, but building work is set to be completed later this year.
Another exciting investment on the horizon is a £3.5m state-of-the-art skills and education hub at the former Bridge Court building.
The Worksop Access to Skills Hub aims to create a better future for Bassetlaw residents, offering opportunities across health and social care, digital and digital transformation, green technologies and low carbon and construction.
The build of the hub alone will create 50 jobs and support 300 learners. It also aims to address skills shortages for the NHS as some nurses from Bassetlaw Hospital prepare to retire after the pandemic.
Coun White added: “This project is about delivering a step change for Bassetlaw, providing wider opportunities for local people and raising aspirations and ambitions.
"We have developed strong partnerships with skills and education providers and all have confidence that this will be a gateway for residents to gain excellent qualifications.”
The pandemic has brought to the forefront just how precious our green spaces are, and many families have taken advantage of lifting restrictions to enjoy Worksop’s award-winning Canch park during the recent heatwave.
An outdoor space like The Canch is a welcome addition to any town centre, offering escape from hustle and bustle, and the park is set to be further enhanced by a brand new healthy refreshments kiosk, toilet and Changing Places facility.
The facility includes a disabled toilet, baby change and parent toilet in addition to four unisex toilets and will be situated opposite the splash park.
Improving the public facilities at The Canch, which has achieved Green Flag status seven years in a row, has been high on the council’s agenda ‘for a number of years’ and the project was given the go ahead in April last year.
Coun White added: “When the old library closed the access to public toilets at The Canch closed with it, so there has always been a demand for toilet facilities in that area.
"The previous toilet facilities we had available were poor and we were open to a lot of justified criticism for that.
"So when we went through the masterplan process for The Canch and the biggest ask from families were for toilets close to the splash park area.
“The Canch is very much in a conservation area due to the nearby Priory Church, so the new facility has been designed in keeping with that and is really something quite game-changing.”
In terms of what the council will focus on in the future, Old Market Square along with the Chesterfield Canal are very much key areas of interest.
Coun White added: "We want to make the town centre as safe and pleasant as possible while filling in the gaps and encouraging independent businsses into the town.
“But as well as making the most of our green spaces, we also want to build on the cultural elements of Worksop.
"We have a fantastic theatre that nobody knows about. We have a fantastic library that holds many community events that many people aren’t aware of.
"Worksop also has a historic canal and the town centre has kind of turned its back on it. We want to turn this around so that that canal very much becomes a feature.
"We’d love to see more barges stopping in Worksop – we know they pass through here, but rarely stop.
"Following on from this, we want to encourage greater use of Old Market Square so that it becomes a proper square.
"We want to see more eateries opening out onto the square and perhaps have a water feature.
"There are many proposals being put forward and I’d really encourage residents to get involved by taking part in the ongoing Worksop Masterplan consultation which runs until July 21.
"We want to meet the needs of local people and see the town centre thrive, and your views are valuable and important to us.”
Residents and businesses can view the updated proposals and take part in the consultation by visiting www.bassetlaw.gov.uk/bassetlawplan.