More than 300 local authorities have made bids for a share of the cash ring-fenced by the Future of High Street Fund, which, if successful, they will have to use to transform high streets into modern and vibrant community hubs.
The funding was confirmed yesterday (10 April) by high streets minister Jake Berry MP, who said there was evidence of “an appetite across the country to re-imagine and reinvent town centres and high streets”.
Berry said: “More than 300 bids to the Future High Streets Fund is a fantastic response and shows the passion across the country to meet the challenges facing our high streets head-on.
“The Government has the power to set the direction but those on the ground know best.”
Heart of our communities
He added: “We’re determined to ensure high streets continue sit at the heart of our communities for generations to come.
“Our Future High Streets Fund will sit front and centre of our plan for the high street as we work to achieve this aim.”
However, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, has urged any successful bidders to make sure pubs, bars and restaurants are considered first when it comes to spending the money.
“High streets are facing existential challenges,” she said. “If the Government is serious about supporting them through revitalisation then we need fairness and support.”
Hospitality is at the heart of every town in the UK, she added, saying that if the sector is thriving, the rest of the high street will benefit.
“Councils need to put hospitality at the forefront of their plans,” said Nicholls. “The Government also needs to make sure that councils have quick and unconditional access to the funds in the event of a successful bid. Otherwise efforts could stall.”
Meanwhile, no more than £55m of the fund has been allocated to regenerate what the Government is calling “heritage high streets”.
Bids for this funding can be made by councils with high streets of historic significance, however, the Government is yet to reveal more details about the funding.
The Government also outlined eight other ways it is backing the high street, including the Future High Street Fund that was launched last December.
- Rates relief cuts for small retailers
- Appointment of an independent panel to understand high street challenges
- £675m of regeneration funding
- Town Centre Task Force to give advice on revitalising the high street
- Open Doors scheme to allow community groups to use empty shops
- The Great British High Street Awards, a competition to decide the UK’s best high street
- Publication of a planning consultation to support change on the high street
- Provision of loans from the business improvement districts to speed up development