Proposals to redevelop the former Hoopers department store site are among those outlined in a £16.6m funding bid to breathe new life into Carlisle city centre.

The bumper funding package would help transform the high street to provide a more holistic approach to shopping, by focusing on the idea that retail now needs to be about more than just choosing products and paying at the till.

The bid - submitted to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund - will focus on six areas which it is hoped will all contribute to moving the city centre into a new dawn of high street trading.

It was revealed in August that Carlisle had been shortlisted for a share of the £1bn pot of cash, with the city then required to submit their business case to the Government.

A list of successful authorities was expected to be announced this spring, but the coronavirus pandemic has meant applications are still being accepted.

“We are trying to get over the over-reliance on retail and better diversify by providing a greater customer experience, an enhanced employment offer and broaden the purpose of the city centre,” explained Carlisle City Council’s portfolio holder for economy enterprise and housing, Paul Nedved.

One of the areas of the bid is a plan to redevelop the former Hoopers site, which has laid dormant opposite Carlisle Cathedral since 2012.

“It is a crucial site, a key anchor site. It is a larger site that has so far had limited interest from new retailers who are concerned by the renovation costs needed to bring it back into use," explained Mr Nedved.

“The funding would enable us to update it for future private sector use, to buy and occupy the building. We asked businesses and they really regarded it as a priority.

“It has been vacant for so long now and we know it is an anchor site. We need to increase footfall and this is a large unit laying empty.”

Discussions are ongoing with parties who are interested in the site.

Another key part of the bid is for Market Square, which Mr Nedved says looks “tired”.

“The city centre is pivotal to the retail experience. We want Market Square to be more of a focal point for residents and visitors.

“We feel it is tired and cluttered with street furniture and has a limited provision for cafe and dining facilities.

“We want to make it more modern, have furniture more spread out and make it more suited to different sorts of entertainment.

"We also want to make it look better aesthetically.

“If you ask the manager of the Lanes, this is what many retailers in the area really want to see.”

If the bid is successful, Mr Nedved says the area will be renovated to make it better suited to events in the space, while also being mindful of residents who live nearby.

Another key site in the city centre is the recently demolished former Central Plaza Hotel, which is also part of the funding bid.

“We want to get the site ready for redevelopment, making it fit for purpose," Mr Nedved continued.

“We’ve done the first part by demolishing the building, but the next key part is getting proposals through for the site.

“There has been interest, but it has slowed down, probably given the circumstances.”

The success of the City of Lights in February is the inspiration for another part of the bidding process.

“We had the light festival a few months ago and from that was an outpouring of appreciation to take this concept forward.

“It was exceptionally popular in the city, we had a lot of tremendous feedback. We want to look at further permanent lighting in the city centre that we hope will encourage people to come for more than just retail.

“We want to encourage other activities after 5pm, encouraging events that are family-friendly. We will hopefully increase footfall from people travelling to the city.

“The castle provides a great backdrop for lighting and shows off the city’s historic look.”

The business case submitted to the Government also includes plans to improve the pedestrian offering of Devonshire Street and to use funds to invest in empty sites on Castle Street with a view to attracting interested retailers, property interests or those interested in office space.