Mansfield District Council has started working towards establishing a town centre community hub.
The scheme - Mansfield Connect - would be an ambitious, new, multi-occupancy premises housing a variety of public services along with spaces for private sector occupiers, too, such as food and drink outlets.
The project, which is being led by the council, will form a central part of its bid to round two of the government's Levelling Up Fund (LUF).
The Department for Work and Pensions, Nottinghamshire County Council, West Nottinghamshire College, Nottingham Trent University, health partners, and volunteering co-ordinator the CVS have been invited to be involved in the hub.
The scheme would see the council relocating from the Civic Centre to a site in the town centre and the Civic Centre being redeveloped.
As well as improving the delivery of public services by providing a range of agencies accessible in one core area, it is envisaged that the new hub would generate extra footfall in the town centre which would benefit existing retailers and help drive regeneration by boosting investor confidence.
The scheme would also align with the aims of the council’s emerging Town Centre Masterplan and broader council strategies in relation to its Growth objectives alongside priorities for Aspiration, Wellbeing and Place.
Cllr Stuart Richardson, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Growth, said: "Moving the council to the town centre and joining forces with other authorities and public sector agencies makes a lot of sense for a variety of reasons.
"Bringing services together will make them more joined up, accessible and work better for the public. And it will enable our customers to kill two birds with one stone, so as well as conducting any business they may have in the Hub, being in the town centre means they may stay a while, too, and perhaps visit the bank, or do some shopping, or meet friends for lunch, for instance. This increase in town centre footfall would be a win-win all round."
A recent report on the scheme to the Mansfield Place Board detailed the aims of the LUF, which focuses on capital investment in local infrastructure and investment in regeneration and growth in places of low productivity and connectivity. Bids can be for up to £20m.
The first round of bids to the Fund closed in June and the council chose not to enter that bidding round due to its tight time frames and other work being done on bids to the government's Towns Fund and Community Renewal Fund.
Instead, it is planning to submit a proposal for round two of the funding bids to the LUF. Further information has been requested by the council from government about the deadlines for the next round and it is awaiting clarification.
Bids must focus on how they deliver transport improvements, cultural investment and town centre regeneration, such as upgrading eyesore buildings and dated infrastructure, and repurposing brownfield sites.
They have to demonstrate how the investment could be used to reduce crime and bring public services and safe community spaces into town and city centres.
The LUF is designed to target places with the most significant need and Mansfield has been ranked at level one out of three, putting it among those areas with the highest need.
As such it has qualified for £125,000 in funding to help it draw up its bid to improve its chances of success in the bidding process. Among the aspects that a bid to the LUF has to demonstrate is value for money and an ability to deliver its schemes within a specific time frame.
The council has engaged the services of project management specialists ARC Partnership to support the development of the project feasibility, costings and design options.
They will be working closely with consultants Allies & Morrison who are working with the council on the emerging Town Centre Masterplan.
In the meantime, the council has set up a Steering Group to guide development of Mansfield Connect and in securing commitment from partners for their operational requirements within the new hub. This information will be used to help build the case for the LUF bid.
Nottinghamshire County Council has shown support for the idea of a new civic hub in Mansfield with the plan aligning with the county council's wider aim of reducing its carbon footprint. With more staff working from home and hybrid working, it is reducing its offices from 17 to nine.
Chairman of its Economic Development and Asset Management Committee, Cllr Keith Girling, said: “We are looking into potential plans to move some council services in Mansfield into a potential public services hub, planned by Mansfield District Council as it looks to move into the town centre.
“It is early days, but this approach makes sense as we look to share resources and make council building more multi-functional and include things like conference facilities and, potentially, libraries."