Which councils will bid for fund to give high streets a boost?
Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre councils have all confirmed that they will be bidding for a share of a new government fund to redesign their high streets.
The Future High Streets initiative aims to encourage local authorities to rethink what their traditional shopping areas have to offer - and guard them against changing consumer habits.
The government is inviting applications from councils which can demonstrate “significant challenges” facing high streets in their area and where investment is needed in physical infrastructure.
Projects which could benefit from the fund include those which reduce reliance on retail and create mixed developments of residential and office space - alongside shops. Research from Public Health Health England suggests that the introduction of new uses for the high street can help make it more resilient to change.
Blackpool Council says that it has been drawing up potential schemes in advance of the initiative opening for applications last week.
A spokesperson for the authority said: “We have been aware of the fund for some time and have been exploring a number of draft town centre proposals for potential.
“Once we have had an opportunity to fully digest the terms and conditions of the fund, we will determine which of these schemes best fits with both the funding guidance and our wider plans for the regeneration of the town centre.”
Meanwhile, Wyre Council revealed its bid will focus on “reviving empty units which carry great potential” and Fylde Council said that it was the authority’s “intention” to make an application once officers have studied the prospectus for the scheme.
Expressions of interest have to be submitted within the next ten weeks. Specific proposals will then be assessed over the summer and must demonstrate an overall “ambition” for an area.
The Federation of Small Business in Lancashire is encouraging local authorities to submit strong bids for the fund. Area Leader for Lancashire, Rachel Kay, said:
“We would like to see all our local authorities try to secure additional funds to support our town centres and high streets.
The growth of online shopping and out of town shopping centres continue to be a real challenge to businesses on high streets throughout the county.
“Small businesses, in particular, have found the last few months challenging and deserve some support to make sure they can keep serving the communities in which they operate.”
1 percent - total retail sales online (October 2000)
20 percent - total retail sales online (October 2018)
4,412 - reduction in retail units across UK (Jan-Jun 2018)
Sources: Office for National Statistics/Local Data Company