The authority has just completed the acquisition, for sums that haven’t been disclosed, of Hillside on Preston Street and the former Charity Girls School, later a bank, on Poulton Street, both Grade II-listed.Both buildings - which faced uncertain futures after lying empty for many years - will now be transformed as part of the Kirkham Futures masterplan which is designed to breathe new life into Kirkham's historic town centre.The Grade II listed Hillside - a former restaurant and popular wedding venue - will be converted into an innovative centre of excellence for teaching heritage-based construction techniques and eco skills.
The aspiration for the centre is to host a range of nationally important training and skills courses in traditional crafts, such as stonemasonry, joinery, woodturning, thatching and stained-glass techniques - potentially creating new jobs and attracting new talent to the area to train in an inspirational setting.The former Charity Girls School dates back to 1860. After closing its doors as a school, it became a community hall and latterly a Lloyds/TSB bank. It is now hoped it can be regenerated as a restaurant with scope for a much-needed community cinema.Fylde Council leader Coun Karen Buckley said: "These wonderful buildings are key to Kirkham's regeneration masterplan, so we are delighted to have been able to complete the purchase of both."This not only protects two much-loved local landmarks for future generations but enables us to bring them back to life through a range of new uses that will benefit both the local community and the visitor economy."A lot of hard work has been going on behind the scenes to deliver this ambitious masterplan for Kirkham so I am very pleased that, following the acquisition of these two buildings, local residents will soon see the regeneration work start to take shape."Coun Liz Oades, Kirkham ward councillor and Fylde Council nominated representative for the Kirkham Futures Project Board, said: "The Hillside Heritage and Eco Skills Centre is really exciting and has the potential to put Kirkham on the map by creating a nationally important training centre that creates green jobs, educates people about heritage and sustainable living, improves health and well-being and brings many people into the town."The renovation of these wonderful and historic buildings is really welcome news and I hope to see the work move quickly. Together with the street improvements planned it will see a welcome return to the vibrancy and vitality of our precious town centre."The Kirkham Futures masterplan is funded through Historic England's High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme, the Government's Future High Streets Fund together with funding contributions from Lancashire County Council and Fylde Council and Kirkham Town Council.
Historic England's Tamsin Cooke said: " Hillside is a well-known feature of Kirkham's centre, so it's fitting these plans will see this lovely Georgian building used as a national hub for training the next generation of craftspeople to maintain and restore treasured historic places."We're also thrilled about the purchase of the former Charity Girls School and the plans to transform that. The heritage-led regeneration of Kirkham is certainly gathering momentum."