Restoration scheme for Longton moves a step forward

Shopfronts and buildings in Longton could be in line for an £800,000 cash boost – in a move that would breathe new life into the town and give empty properties new uses.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is hoping to join forces with Historic England on a three-year project that would repair and enhance properties in Longton’s conservation area. If the bid for the Partnership Schemes in Conservation Areas (PSiCA) project for Longton is successful, it would mirror a recently completed programme in Stoke town centre between the two organisations, which successfully oversaw 11 restoration and enhancement projects in the town, including the refurbishment of the historic Sutherland Chambers.

The city council’s cabinet today moved the cash boost for Longton a step closer by agreeing to contribute £300,000 to the project, which would be match funded by Historic England. Under the scheme, property owners would be able to apply for grants to carry out works to their properties, including restoring shop frontages and converting disused upper floors to housing. Contributions from individual owners towards improvements would be expected to add a further £200,000 to the overall investment into the town over the three years.

Conservative Cllr Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for infrastructure, regeneration and heritage, said: “The scheme in Stoke town centre was a huge success and has really breathed new life into some of the town’s buildings and street scenes, and we would love to replicate that in Longton with Historic England.

“It would really complement the £2 million restoration project recently completed at Longton Town Hall and be a big part of our campaign to power up Stoke-on-Trent as the city recovers and comes back stronger from coronavirus. We’ll be getting the application in with Historic England very shortly and we hope to be able to announce some good news soon.”

Conservative Cllr James Smith, the city council’s Heritage Champion, said: “The decision by cabinet today moves us one step closer to realising our ambition to bring heritage-led regeneration to Longton. We have a very good working relationship with Historic England who see the potential in Stoke-on-Trent and value the city’s proud heritage.”

Historic England designated Longton as one of 18 Heritage Action Zones nationally in 2017. The Longton Ceramic Heritage Action Zone also includes projects to better understand, repair and restorer the surviving bottle kilns and ovens in the city.

Louise Brennan, Midlands Regional Director at Historic England, said: “Longton is home to some fine buildings that have real potential, but clearly require work to restore their attractiveness and give them a better chance at finding new purposes. There are many buildings, for example, that have empty upper floors, and this scheme could help property owners to potentially develop this space into residential accommodation.

“At a time when towns and cities are recovering from coronavirus, this scheme would see the council and Historic England work with property owners to make refurbishments affordable and viable. Improving buildings and bringing empty units back to life is good news for everyone and benefits the town as a whole.

“We work very well with the city council on projects like this and we look forward to receiving their application.”

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