The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is to provide £3m for the regeneration of Leamington Spa’s historic ‘Old Town’ to deliver modern workspaces for the area’s booming digital creative sector.
The funding to developer Complex Development Projects (CDP) will enable the company to restore and convert three rundown buildings off Spencer Street, including the Grade II listed United Reformed Church.
The Neo-Classical style church, which dates back to 1838, has stood empty and unused for decades and will be fully restored along with two neighbouring buildings, the Crown building and a former nursery.
With WMCA funding now available, all three buildings will be converted into more than 18,000sqft of modern office space for the town’s growing digital creative sector, which has earned Leamington the nickname Silicon Spa.
The £45.5m Spencer Yard scheme, which is expected to create more than 140 jobs, is being delivered by CDP as the first phase of a 10-year partnership regeneration programme with Warwick District Council which has secured part funding for the project through a successful bid to the government’s Future High Street Fund.
The funding, which is coming from the WMCA’s Collective Investment Fund (CIF), is the latest under the combined authority’s nationally acclaimed housing and regeneration programme which, in partnership with industry, is regenerating hundreds of acres of run-down urban plots and derelict industrial sites, often referred to as brownfield, to deliver new homes, jobs and commercial spaces for the region.
Investments are also being made by the WMCA to help breathe new life into the region’s town centres and high streets, helping to drive the region’s economic recovery while relieving pressure to build in the green belt.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “Spencer Yard is another wonderful example of how the WMCA is helping to unlock scores of sites that were previously considered too difficult to deliver.
“Thanks to the substantial funding we’ve secured from Government for our ‘brownfield first’ approach to development, we’ve been able to restore historic buildings like Leamington’s United Reform Church – repurposing the space to meet the needs of cutting-edge 21st century industries while preserving it for future generations to enjoy.
“Digital is the golden thread that increasingly runs right through all aspects of the modern working world and is central to building the high skilled, high wage economy of the future.
“We will continue to work with Warwick District Council - and indeed other local authorities - to regenerate derelict sites and drive economic growth in the months and years ahead.”
Leamington and the surrounding area is a prime location for the tech and creative sector in the West Midlands, which research shows is the most established destination for the industry outside London.
The West Midlands has the largest number of companies in 10 out of the 13 tech and creative sector specialisms, including digital transformation; gaming; immersive tech; process automation and software development.
The partnership between Warwick District Council and CDP has been struck to deliver the Creative Quarter initiative which will see the Old Town regenerated as a destination for creative businesses. Multiple projects are planned to transform the area and take advantage of the town’s strong reputation for creative digital enterprise.
Cllr Andrew Day, leader of Warwick District Council, said: “This is another vote of confidence in the future of Leamington Spa.
“Along with the Future High Streets funding, significant investment has been marshalled to transform this underutilised area to establish a vibrant and innovative hub for our creative and digital industries.
“Once these amazing buildings have been reimagined and revealed, heads will be turned across the country, helping to attract further exciting businesses, innovators and start-up companies into our wonderful town.”
Ian Harrabin, managing director of CDP, said: “The funding provided by WMCA has been instrumental in enabling this project to be delivered in this difficult financial climate.
“Digital creative companies are attracted to Leamington because of the character and vitality of its town centre and the quality of life that helps them attract the best employees.
“But there is very little space available, and this project is the first of several to help satisfy this demand. It is great that we have not only been able to save important heritage but also to give it an economic life that will secure its future.”
Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, added: “Spencer Yard is just one of dozens of disused urban plots and former industrial sites we are helping to transform to provide energy efficient and affordable homes for local people and modern commercial premises so our businesses can grow and prosper, creating thousands of new jobs. It’s why the WMCA has rightly earned a reputation as a national leader in brownfield regeneration.
“It is also a good example of how the WMCA is using the money it has secured from Government to support the regeneration of our town and city centres by helping to drive forward development on locally agreed priority sites.
“We have continued to invest in these regeneration projects throughout the pandemic and this has helped to provide market confidence while laying the building blocks we need for future economic growth.”
Access to the WMCA funding was provided by the Property Team at Frontier Development Capital Ltd (FDC).
FDC works closely with property developers to arrange investments from the WMCA's Collective Investment Fund (CIF) and Revolving Investment Fund (RIF).