On August 26, 2019, 50 UK towns learned that they will soon see their downtown areas revitalized, thanks to £1 billion in grants from the government’s Future High Streets Fund.
Towns across England—from Dudley to Dover and Scarborough to Stockport—will join 50 successful areas already shortlisted to develop plans to reinvent their high streets.
The funding could be used by these areas to improve transport and access into town centers, convert empty retail units into new homes and workplaces, and invest in vital infrastructure.
The extension to the shortlist comes on the back of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund announced last month, which included an additional £325 million for the Future High Streets Fund, taking the overall Fund to £1 billion as the Government looks to drive forward local growth.
In making the announcement, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “Our high streets are right at the heart of our communities, and I will do everything I can to make sure they remain vibrant places where people want to go, meet and spend their money.”
“But with our town centres facing challenges, we’re today expanding the High Streets Fund to support over 100 high streets to regenerate – backed by £1 billion of vital investment. This scheme is going to reenergise and transform even more of our high streets – helping them to attract new businesses, boost local growth, and create new infrastructure and jobs,” he added.
Successful candidates will progress to the second phase of the Future High Streets Fund and receive up to £150,000 to support the development of detailed project proposals that can be submitted for capital funding.
The scheme was launched in December 2018 and is a key part of the Government’s plan to renew and reshape town centers and high streets in a way that drives economic growth and sustainably improves living standards.
A number of other measures have already been taken to support high streets, including the creation of the High Streets Task Force to support local leaders in delivering ambitious plans.
Through the planning system we are helping to support changes to high streets, making it easier for them to adapt, with a wider range of retail, residential and other uses. The Open Doors pilot in five town centers is bringing empty shops back into use, by opening these to community groups who are offering services to the most vulnerable in our communities.
Small retailers have also seen their bills cut by a third, thanks to business rates retail discount, worth an estimated £1 billion.
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said “High streets have a crucial role to play as we work to grow the economy of all parts of the country. Our £1 billion Future High Streets Fund is key to delivering this, empowering local leaders to help transform their high streets and town centres as consumer habits change, by investing in housing, workplaces, infrastructure and culture.”
“Interest in the Fund has been huge, and with so many strong applications, I am extending the number of towns moving forward to the next phase and getting a chance to develop their proposals. The government is going to level-up our regional economies and as Communities Secretary I am proud to be driving this agenda forward,” Jenrick added.
The Great British High Street Awards recognize and celebrate retailers and community groups who are working in innovative ways to keep town centres and high streets vibrant and strong. Shortlisted high streets were recently announced and voting for the Champion and Rising Star Awards is now open.
Photo of the South Bay of Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England (with castle at top) is via Adobe Stock.