A bid for £1m to create new pocket parks in Mansfield has been submitted to the government by Mansfield District Council to boost visitors and encourage them to spend more time in the town centre.
The £1m spending proposal is in addition to a bid the council is already preparing for £25m for the district under the government's Towns Fund scheme and supports a council priority to improve the green environment in the district.
The scheme focuses on the creation of small green spaces in parts of the town centre that could benefit from environmental and amenity improvements to open up darker, less inviting gateways to the town, such as Stockwell Gate. It would also provide:
- Soft play facilities in the town centre
- Living wall installations
- Upgraded street lighting
- Improved bicycle storage facilties
- New art installations.
Cllr Stuart Richardson, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Growth, said: "The aim of these proposals is to create a feelgood factor to encourage more people to visit and spend time in the town centre and support the local economy, which is especially important following the coronavirus lockdown.
"We want to make a Mansfield a greener and more pleasant place for everyone and we hope this will enhance physical and mental well-being of our residents, too, and make them feel Mansfield is somewhere to be proud of living.
"The way high streets are used is changing, nationally, and it is vital that we encourage alternative uses for our town centre. These new pocket parks would be part of that revisioning and our town centre masterplan.
"Due to the short timescale we have been given to devise a plan for how we would spend this extra £1m, we have had to get our skates on in drawing up this bid and it has, therefore, not been possible to put this out for wider consultation.
"However we have discussed this with our key stakeholders and everyone is in agreement about these ideas for greening up the town centre."
The proposed interventions form part of a wider programme of town centre improvements and the emerging Town Investment Plan.
This includes re-imagining uses for the Market Place included in the council's £25m bid for the government's Future High Streets Fund, plus the £25m bid for the whole district from its Towns Fund.
Both these schemes fall under the government's levelling up agenda to support regions that have not benefited from the economic upturn enjoyed by other areas of the England.
The extra £1m of funding being made available to the council must be spent before the end of the current financial year to kick-start investment coming from the Towns Fund later this year.
The objectives set out by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for this extra funding were to improve existing or create new parks and green spaces, and create sustainable transport links, and enhance town centres by repurposing or demolishing empty commercial properties.
The Mansfield proposals were agreed unanimously at the council's most recent Place Board meeting. The Board, comprising councillors, council officers and key stakeholders, such as Mansfield BID and other local partners, was set up last year to steer the district's vision for the future.
The ideas in the bid align with the council's overall strategic vision for the town centre, supported by the government funding programmes. A major element of these is to enhance the Market Place to encourage people to spend more time there.
It is believed that this could create new dynamic areas of interest in the town centre and reflect the council's ambition to promote a vibrant, appealing and safe district with more focus on leisure and culture activities for local people and visitors.
Another key strand of the proposals are improvements to access and arterial routes to the town and to provide better bike storage facilities to encourage more cycling so that people who live and work in the district can make healthy transport choices.
This aligns with the council's corporate priority for Wellbeing to tackle health inequalities that exist in the area and gives people an alternative to using public transport in the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
The council asked Via Ltd, the agency delivering Nottinghamshire County Council's highways service, to carry out an initial feasibility study to assess where to locate the new urban parks and cycle storage.
Cllr Richardson added: "We think Mansfield is already a fantastic place in which to live and work. People here have a very good quality of life but there is a lingering negative perception of the town, which really is undeserved and which we're determined to reverse to help future-proof the prosperity of this district.
"We're confident in our ability to deliver these proposals and begin a process of transformation not seen in the town for several decades.”