AN ART gallery will open in Ellesmere Port as part of a scheme launched to bring empty properties back into use.
The project aims to target long-term vacant shops in the old part of Whitby Road in a bid to try to improve the appearance of the street, increase footfall for the other shops and support the regeneration of the wider area.
Landlords have been asked to rent out their unused retail unit to community interest groups for a two-year period, receiving a peppercorn rent and benefiting from a grant to bring the property back up to modern specifications in return.
Refurbishment works to 5 Whitby Road are due to begin and the art gallery will open its doors to the public in May 2013.
Cllr Herbert Manley, executive member for prosperity at Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “It’s really great news to hear that the scheme, only launched two months ago, has its first success story.
“The new art gallery will strengthen Ellesmere Port’s position on the cultural map, building on the town’s successes this year, including the newly established creative and services industries of West Cheshire College earlier this year and news that the Methodist Art Collection will come to the Port in 2014.
“With the current economic climate, Whitby Road has many unused retail outlets and encouraging landlords to claim this grant will not only improve the appearance of one of the main routes into the town but will bring properties back into use.
“I’m sure the gallery will attract interest from local residents, as well as those from further afield, with changing exhibitions of a wide variety of professional artwork and I wish it every success.
“I hope it will prove to be a sustainable business and gain an established, positive reputation.”
The long-term vacant shop used to be a newsagent before it closed its doors in 2007, after 23 years of trading.
In return for the grant, the landlord offered the council the opportunity to nominate an organisation to use the shop on a peppercorn rent for two years and, after a competitive process, the successful business plan was submitted by local artist Sonja Moss-Dolega, who said it was a ‘great opportunity’ to put Ellesmere Port on the arts map.
“Our aim is to bring the arts to the town and its people,” she said.
“In the gallery we are going to exhibit all kinds of artwork for sale and we want to encourage local artists and craftspeople to contribute.”
For more information, or to request an application form, email town centre improvement manager Jochem Hollestelle on email@example.com before January 31.