Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has thrown his weight behind The Yorkshire Post’s campaign championing the region’s high streets.
Mr Berry praised the newspaper as he set out his vision for northern high streets and explained how the government was supporting retailers and local authorities.
He said: “I think this is a really opportune moment for the Yorkshire Post to run a really high-profile campaign on supporting high streets and promoting high streets across Yorkshire.
“There are lots of brilliant high streets up and down Yorkshire but we need to go and celebrate them and use them.
“I think it’s so well timed this campaign because I do not remember a period in my life - all 40 years of it - of such rapid change on high streets.”
The Rossendale and Darwen MP said despite the difficulties local retailers were facing, particularly in competing with online businesses, he had been inspired by innovative new schemes across the region that were bringing customers back to town centres.
He praised the West Yorkshire town of Todmorden, saying it had won back shoppers by supporting and promoting its market.
“You go to Tod for its market,” he said, “which is the beating heart of the town centre and while you are their you look at the shops, whether they be antique shops, small electrical retailers or chemists.
“Todmorden is doing really well as a Yorkshire town as it has worked out why people who live round it, like me, should go to Todmorden. And it is relentlessly promoting its market and the town and that’s drawing people in. And of course Hebdon Bridge is doing famously as well with independent retailers.”
As part of a government push to support towns to reinvent their shopping areas, a raft of recommendations made last year by retailer Sir John Timpson are being taken forward.
A £675 million fund has been made available to help areas develop thriving community hubs, while a new High Street Task Force provides expertise and hands-on support.
One of Sir John’s more interesting recommendations - of establishing a ‘National High Street Perfect Day’ - will soon be piloted in Altrincham, Manchester.
Mr Berry explains: “I love this idea. The whole community comes together the week before - cleans the high street, does all the litter picks, everyone on the high street has to smile, including the traffic wardens, including everyone working in shops.
“The idea of having a perfect day on the high street, which the whole community can get involved with, is really exciting.”
He added: “What Sir John Timpson said is that there is no shortage of brilliant ideas out there driven by local areas, but the government needs to come forward with the money to support that.
“We listened to him, we accept that and that is exactly what we have done.”