Traders back lottery bid for historic area
Traders in the Cathedral Guildhall conservation area have welcomed plans to improve buildings, public spaces and footpaths.
The 13-acre section of the city centre was yesterday classed as an at-risk site by English Heritage, which produces a national register of run-down areas.
The organisation listed the site, which covers Friar Lane, Southgates, Millstone Lane, Grey Friars and Guildhall Lane, as being in a "very bad condition".
However, Leicester City Council said it would be submitting a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for cash to regenerate the area.
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Sir Peter Soulsby said the priorities would be Peacock Lane, Cathedral Square and St Nicholas Circle.
Speaking yesterday, businesses which sit within the conservation zone welcomed the plans.
Rakesh Palmer, owner of Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe, in Hotel Street, said: "I think it's positive that they're looking to spend money improving the buildings and surrounding area.
"The Richard III site especially is interesting because it should bring a lot of tourists to the area.
"The crucial thing is how the council takes advantage of the visitors. It could be really good for the area."
The project will run as part of the city council's £19 million Connecting Leicester scheme.
This aims to pedestrianise the routes between shopping, leisure and heritage sites with pedestrian routes.
It also includes the proposed £4 million Jubilee Square, to be built at the Lanes car park in St Nicolas Place to mark the Queen's visit this year.
Lisa Delahoy, owner of gift shop Set, in St Martin's Square, said she did not think the conservation area looked or felt at-risk, but welcomed the news of the grant.
She said: "I think it can only be a good thing. We are the gateway into the city and anything which improves the area is positive. The Connect Leicester project will introduce pedestrian routes which can only help with footfall because people would be more confident and comfortable about walking around, known they won't get mowed down by traffic."
Civic society chairman Stuart Bailey said: "The conservation area has a very high proportion of listed buildings so it really strengthens Peter Soulsby's argument for applying for a Heritage Lottery grant.
"The area would certainly benefit from better street surfaces, landscaping, better public spaces and structural improvements."
The Heritage Lottery bid, if successful, would be worth £1.5 million – with the council agreeing to boost the figure to £2 million.
The bid will be submitted by the end of October.
It will be used to bring empty premises back into commercial and residential use, improve historic buildings and provide better signage.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: "What we've got here is an opportunity to raise Heritage Lottery funding which will help us to improve the setting of some our most important historic buildings and revitalise part of the city that is suffering as part of the economic downturn."
He pointed to the redevelopment of Spinney Hill Park in Leicester as proof of previously successful lottery-funded regeneration schemes.