Dudley townscape heritage initiative
Visitors to Dudley Zoo could be forgiven for overlooking the architectural delights of this fine Black Country town: the poor physical links between the two were made clear when conservation officer Jayne Pilkington led us out of a hidden back gate to gather at the statue of the first Earl of Dudley at the foot of the Broadway. From this location we were able to admire the high-quality public realm works funded through European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) grants at the beginning of our tour of the recent townscape heritage project. The work included new stone paving to the Market Place and Castle Street, and the refurbishment of the 150-year-old fountain in the Market Place.
It has to be asked what the future could hold for Dudley with Brexit and the subsequent loss of EU funding for projects such as this in areas that have suffered from deindustrialisation. Fortunately, Pilkington was able to tell us about the heritage lottery funding Dudley has been awarded for further regeneration of the town centre.
Pilkington was an excellent guide, and her determined efforts to deliver heritage-led regeneration should be heartily commended. Getting the community and its politicians to appreciate the quality and potential of the town’s historic buildings has not been easy. Some bold ideas were needed – punching through a solid brick facade to create a light modern restaurant space in the Old Glasshouse, and accepting facade retention to facilitate the conversion of the fire station, are examples. Key strategic moves are paying dividends: relocating the college to the town centre has brought increased footfall there, and gap sites have been successfully filled with sensitively scaled responses to context.
The much-needed repairs to listed buildings are well judged, but decisions have been pragmatic – accepting that it is not always possible to implement a goldstandard conservation solution, but making sure that works do not jeopardise the potential for a better solution in the future. It was a delight to see such a wealth of high-quality civic buildings and to know that they are in safe conservation hands.
Dudley coverage was compiled from reports by Sara Crofts, Claire Gayle and Rosamund Worrall.
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