A transformation programme is starting to have an impact on Blyth’s Central Conservation Area.
The Blyth Central Conservation Area Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is helping to bring historic buildings back into use, with its first building restoration project, at 35 to 39 Bridge Street, due for completion in February 2012.
The Bridge Street premises are occupied by Real Pizza and Croft Vets and owned by local business Saleem Properties. Their restoration is seeing repairs to the roof and stonemasonry and replacement and reinstatement of the traditional shop fronts.
Blyth’s Central Conservation Area, primarily Bridge Street, Havelock Street and Waterloo Road, is one of a number of historic areas chosen nationally to run the four year project.
The Heritage Lottery Fund along with One North East have contributed to a pot of £877,000 for the scheme which aims to attract around £200,000 matched funding from the local businesses benefiting from grants.
Since the Townscape Heritage Initiative was launched council officers have been working with building owners to encourage them to take up the offer of grants to restore their properties.
Architects have been preparing proposals and planning permissions have been submitted, and there are a further five schemes in progress with work is due to start on site in the spring of next year.
The central area of Blyth has recently suffered from an underperforming property market with several significant vacant or underused buildings and under-investment in repairs and poorly designed shop fronts which have been detrimental to the townscape quality.
Councillor Tom Brechany is executive member responsible for regeneration at Northumberland County Council. He said: “The area was identified as a conservation area ‘at risk’ by English Heritage but despite this, it has great heritage merit, with a number of fine commercial properties built during the economic growth of the late-19th century and potential for improvement.
“Now that the first project is nearing completion at Bridge Street, people will be able to see more clearly the vision of the townscape heritage initiative, and the standard and high quality of design and craftsmanship that we expect to see in forthcoming schemes.
“The initiative will start to enhance the character of the conservation area as well as supporting local businesses and helping to attract tenants into vacant units. We are seeing real improvements in nearby Bedlington where the THI is in its third year”.
The THI is building on the success of the Blyth Property Improvement Programme from which ten businesses have benefited from external improvements that have helped to improve the appearance of their buildings and the surrounding area.
The programme, with £200,000 funding from One North East, has been targeted at commercial buildings in and around the Market Place. Two schemes saw unoccupied and semi derelict buildings brought back into use, on a major thoroughfare between the Market Place and the supermarket on Church Street.
Funding for the Townscape Heritage Initiative was secured with the help by the North of England Civic Trust and the project is being run by Northumberland County Council’s south east regeneration team.
The restoration proposals at Bridge Street were prepared by John Curtis of Napper Architects with Meldrum Construction Services Limited appointed as principal contractor through a competitive tendering process. Saleem Properties is financially supported by Lloyds TSB.