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£8.6m boost for Leicester’s Pilot House regeneration plans

Published on Friday, October 29, 2021

Artist's impression of Pilot House

PLANS to redevelop a cluster of heritage buildings into a home for creative businesses in Leicester city centre have received a boost from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.

The Government announced on Wednesday (27 Oct) that Leicester City Council’s bid for funding had been successful, with £8.6m allocated to the Pilot House regeneration project – that’s 75% of the total budget required for the scheme.

The news means that plans to refurbish the council-owned site on King Street into a hub for start-up and growing businesses can now go ahead, subject to planning permission.

Under the council’s proposals, Pilot House would be sensitively transformed to provide a central courtyard and atrium for shared use, a business zone for technical and digital businesses, and a co-working lounge.

Existing industrial features, including parquet flooring and exposed brick and beams, would be retained and a new entrance into the courtyard would be created from King Street.

The five separate but interconnected buildings on site would be transformed into 60,000sqft of high quality accommodation that would support around 250 new jobs.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This project will transform a group of architecturally significant heritage buildings into a landmark destination that will become a source of pride for Leicester.

“Not only will it contribute to the wider regeneration of the Belvoir Street, Market Street and New Walk areas, and complement exciting new developments like the Gresham Building, but it will also create and support hundreds of high quality new jobs.

“I want to congratulate council officers, whose hard work and successful bids have helped attract millions of pounds for Leicester from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.

“This new investment will give a huge boost to the city’s growth and economic recovery.”

The Pilot House scheme would support training and skills development, including higher education programmes, meetings and events. It would be a permanent base for businesses of varying sizes, from graduate start-ups to established firms, and of varying types – including craft makers and design practices.

It would also provide the skilled roles that would encourage graduates from Leicester’s two universities to remain in the city when their studies are over.

Simon Bradbury, Pro Vice Chancellor, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Design and Humanities at De Montfort University, said: “De Montfort University is committed to working in partnership with the city to bring forward projects that provide opportunities for training and employment. 

“We are delighted that Pilot House has been successful and will offer opportunities particularly for small and medium size businesses in the creative industries, including for our graduates. Working with the city we hope to bring partners in the Fashion and Heritage sector to Pilot House to support specialist training in these industries.”

Subject to planning permission, work could start on site in early 2023, with the building open for business from spring 2024.

The city council has committed £2.8m towards the £11.4m Pilot House project.

In total, Leicester City Council was successful in bidding for over £45.6million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund. The money will fund three major projects that will support the city’s economic recovery and growth, and help create hundreds of new jobs.

Along with the £8.6m for Pilot House, the city council has been awarded £17.6m to transform the entrance to Leicester’s historic railway station, and £19.4m for three projects in and around Pioneer Park and Exploration Drive, complementing the University of Leicester’s Space Park development.

The Government’s Levelling Up Fund is designed to finance long-term, significant capital projects that create jobs, encourage new investment and enable businesses to grow.