AMBITIOUS plans to spruce up Ilkeston town centre have been given the go-ahead, paving the way for future cash injections in the town, councillors have claimed.
For years, lower Bath Street has been struggling and more and more businesses have shut up shop, leaving behind ugly, boarded-up fronts along both sides of the town’s main shopping street.
But wide-ranging plans included in the Ilkeston Conservation Area Management Plan – approved by Erewash borough councillors yesterday – aim to change all that.
Among the plans to be completed in the next four years is a scheme to offer shopkeepers cash to reinstate traditional architectural features to the shops at the bottom of town.
Another is to attract ‘specialist retailing’ and food and drink stores in the area.
Plans are also now in place to protect the view of St Mary’s Church in Ilkeston from future developments which may obscure it and to redesign the Albion shopping centre which sits halfway up Bath Street.
Leader of the council Cllr Chris Corbett said that the plans were a ‘big step’ to securing lottery cash to improve the bottom of town.
“We are lucky in Ilkeston to have such lovely buildings in the middle of town,” he said.
“A conservation area helps us to protect those buildings and it means it’s harder for people to knock them down and do horrible things to them.”
Long Eaton benefited from lottery cash last summer, which saw its Market Place given a major makeover through a Townscape Heritage Initiative project.
Cllr Corbett said that the council hopes to attract similar funding for the bottom of town.
“These are not easy times financially,” he explained.
“But if you have a conservation area in place it makes it so much easier to attract the funds – it’s a necessary step and a big step towards that.”
Cllr Corbett also revealed that the council has ambitious plans for the Albion shopping centre.
He said: “We would love to attract another big developer to the site but that is something for way in the future.”
The Ilkeston Conservation Management Plan was approved at a meeting of the Council Executive on Wednesday morning.
It was a result of six weeks of consultation with Ilkeston, Kirk Hallam and West Hallam residents, Bath Street businesses, Ilkeston market traders and English Heritage.
Ilkeston and District Local History Society were asked about what could be done to conserve the town’s long history stretching back to medieval times.
As a result plans have now been put in place to ensure that any planning applications made within the town centre have to be looked over by Derbyshire County Council’s archaeologist who can object if they have particular archaeological interest.
Society chairman Alan Edwards said: “As far as shopfronts are concerned we do feel that it is important to try to establish a pattern for development.
“Ilkeston had one of the strongest Victorian town centres in the county and using that period would make the bottom of town more attractive.
“It would be a shame to lose that but a very difficult thing to pull off as big name shops tend to have their own house style.”
Another plan included in the scheme is to work with the county council to make sure road signage is clear in the town and clutter reduced.