WORK is progressing on ambitious plans to regenerate Chard town centre.

The scheme aims to improve the street space in conjunction with the new leisure centre project.

The High Street Heritage Action Zone work will initially focus on the development of the town centre streets and public spaces around the shops.

Holyrood Street

Holyrood Street

South Somerset District Council will:

  • Improve the setting of the Guildhall, moving the bus stop slightly west to provide enhanced views of the building.
  • Widen sections of pavement on Fore Street and Holyrood Street to provide easier movement of pedestrians, improved accessibility, safer crossing points and potential for markets, café seating or other events, as well as reducing the dominance of traffic.
  • Replace tired concrete, brick and tarmac paving with high quality natural stone in Holyrood Street, near the Guildhall on Fore Street and at the Eastern Gateway (junction of Fore Street and Silver Street).
  • Enhance the setting of the water rills that run through the town.
  • Construct a new footway along Boden Street between Costa Coffee and the car park, creating a safe pedestrian route to and from the town centre and connecting to the leisure centre. The road will be narrower will therefore become one-way northbound between Commercial Row and Fore Street.
  • Plant new trees and beds to add more greenery to the urban setting.
  • Make safety improvements to the junctions of Marketfield and Boden Street car parks, to increase visibility for drivers pulling out.
  • Declutter street furniture and create new cycle parking and seating areas.

Cllr Jason Baker, portfolio holder for Chard Regeneration, said: “We are really excited to unveil plans which we believe will enhance the experience of the town centre in Chard as a place to live, work and visit.

"All of the plans that we have been carefully working on behind the scenes are an amalgamation of feedback you gave us at our consultation events over the last couple of years, and we believe we have got the right blend of that feedback plus identifying work that will fit into the historic nature of the town centre.

“Of course, I can’t just stop at the town centre improvements. Work is continuing on the leisure centre and you will read that we are ensuring there is a clear link between the town centre and new leisure centre site that will make it easy for everyone to visit both.

"We are still on track for delivering the new facility later this year."

Chard & Ilminster News:

The public realm improvements that are part of the HSHAZ project have been developed following a number of public and business consultation activities which said:

  • The streetscape is lacklustre and would benefit from a refresh.
  • There are many localised issues relating to poor repair and appearance, and access/safety issues.
  • Fore Street is very linear and dominated by traffic – is there anything that can be done to reduce this.
  • Many liked the free on-street parking however there was considerable support for a modest reduction to allow improved/expanded pedestrian environment.
  • Strong endorsement for creating space for market stalls and public events.
  • The Guildhall is the heart of the town centre.
  • Concern the leisure centre will become the 'centre of town' and detract from the high street – need to strengthen links between the leisure centre and the high street.
  • Many references to the idea of Holyrood Street becoming pedestrianised or more accessible.
  • Concern regarding the external image.
  • Considerable civic pride relating to the town’s heritage and abundance of historic buildings.

Chard & Ilminster News:

With almost the entire town centre of Chard designated a conservation area and a number of listed buildings being located there, the public realm work will enhance the setting and SSDC plans to work with building owners to make repairs to town centre properties. £650,000 in grant funding from Historic England’s HSHAZ programme will be made available when the building repair grant scheme opens later this spring.

Because of its special character, Chard has been designated a HSHAZ and secured £2million funding to revitalise its town centre - £1m of Government high streets funding from Historic England has been matched by £1m by South Somerset District Council. These funds will be invested in making lasting physical improvements that enhance the historic high street.

The HSHAZ programme will have three strands – public realm improvements, grants for the repair and renovation of historic buildings and shopfronts, and community engagement.

Ross Simmonds, regional director for the South West at Historic England, said: “Improving the public realm space in the Chard town centre is a critical component of the High Street Heritage Action Zone. Public spaces that truly work for a place can make all the difference, helping to make it more attractive and welcoming, and where people want to spend time and shop.”

Chard & Ilminster News:

Anna Matthews has been appointed as SSDC’s High Street Historic Action Zone Project Manager and will work with Historic England to ensure the programme is delivered and that Chard’s town centre will evolve into a place where local people and visitors want to visit and spend time once again. Anna said, “I’m proud to be working on such a fantastic project which will lead to economic benefits for the shops, businesses and residents of Chard.”

The detailed work which will lead to construction starting on Chard town centre’s public realm areas is now progressing through various technical approval processes and, assuming there are no delays, work will begin on-site in the latter half of 2021.