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10th March 2015

Cheshire West and Chester Council has received a bronze award at the 6th Annual Improvement & Efficiency Awards 2015 for its regeneration of Ellesmere Port’s historic high street, Whitby Road.

Awarded for ‘Working Together’, the accolade emphasises the progress made in the ongoing transformation of Whitby Road, focusing on the close relationships that have developed between the council and a variety of local social enterprises.

Work over the past two years has seen a number of social enterprises establish themselves on the street – resulting in a significant reduction of empty shops, improved shop fronts, the creation of affordable flats above shops, and more than 80 work experience places for young people not in employment, education or training so far.

Executive Member for Culture and Economy, Councillor Stuart Parker, said: “Despite a challenging national backdrop of high street decline, work over the past two years has seen a number of social enterprises regenerate and transform Whitby Road – refurbishing and re-occupying properties that have been disused for many years.

“With a previous vacancy rate of over 20 percent – nearly twice the national average – when this scheme began, this statistic is remarkably now down to seven percent, with more occupiers in the pipeline.

“We have seen 13 empty shops open, or due to open, 10 innovative, community-centric social enterprises established and 47 affordable flats being created. One particular project alone had 83 work experience placements and I am delighted our work has been recognised nationally.

“Partnership and community working within Ellesmere Port is second to none. The council is working with partners to ensure that the community’s voice is heard and that residents can have pride in where they live and in turn support the local economy.”

The regeneration of Whitby Road was prioritised in the Ellesmere Port Development Board’s Vision and Strategic Regeneration Framework, and supported by the Town Centre Improvement Advisory Body.

Social enterprises that are now established on Whitby Road include the Paperboat Gallery, Access2Training&Employment, Endeavour, Seed Enterprises, Montague Café, West Cheshire Credit Union, and charity P3.

Other organisations that have also been attracted to the road are FabLab, Chalice Media, a new local radio for Ellesmere Port and a Social Popup Cinema.

Local member, Councillor Lynn Clare, said: “The new social enterprises are working closely together with each other and with established organisations like nearby Trinity Church to transform the high street for the benefit of the local community.

“I am really pleased that this unique set of relationships has been recognised and hope that many Ellesmere Port residents can benefit from them over the coming years.”

Chairman of the Town Centre Improvement Advisory Body, Les Lyon: “This award recognises the hard work and commitment from all of those involved in the regeneration of Whitby Road.

“Council officers, private enterprise, volunteers, members of the local community and elected representatives have all recognised the need for change and embraced the possibilities

“I would particularly like to commend the hard work of the Council’s regeneration team, in particular the Town Centre Improvements Manager, Jochem Hollestelle, whose enthusiasm has been vital in drawing together the diverse aspects of the scheme and driving it forward.

“I believe the benefits of everyone’s hard work will be felt in the town centre for many years to come.”