LAST month, our Prime Minister set out this Government’s plan to unite and level up cities, towns, coastal and rural areas across our country. Announcing a £3.6bn Towns Fund, he set out his vision to re-energise local economies so that everyone can share in a new era of prosperity.
As consumer habits change we know that some high streets are facing challenging times. As the cornerstone of our town centres, they will be front and centre of this bold new agenda and will play a key role in supporting the regeneration of our regions.
I see two solutions to this problem. Firstly, we all need to champion our local high streets. My message to the public is clear, unless you continue to use your high streets, you’ll lose it. Let’s support the shops we love, let’s buy local and ensure our town centres are booming.
Secondly, we need to take action to reimagine and reinvent our high streets so they are fit for the future. Let’s make our high streets places we want to visit, vibrant cultural hubs and community centres full of activity.
As Communities Secretary, I can support these solutions by ensuring local leaders have the money and support to deliver the kind of long-term structural change that will ensure their high streets thrive.
That’s why I’m proud to support the Prime Minister’s decision to accelerate our £1bn Future High Streets Fund and extend the shortlist of successful candidates by a further 50 areas – including seven more areas from Yorkshire and the Humber.
Each of these successful communities will receive immediate revenue funding of up to £150,000 to develop their bids, and then will be eligible for up to £25 million of capital investment to invest in infrastructure, housing and work spaces. These projects will transform our high streets and town centres, bringing long-term economic benefits.
We’ve received some truly ambitious and innovative proposals. Doncaster’s ‘Urban Centre Masterplan’ highlights its ambition to support and develop enterprise, business, leisure and retail on its high street. While Barnsley is looking to complement and expand on its shops and businesses to offer a real community hub.
Grimsby, Scarborough and Scunthorpe all have high ambitions too, building on their rich culture and heritage they aim to transform their high streets with new retail, leisure and community facilities.
These areas, and many more including Elland and Northallerton, will benefit from tailored support and will receive up to £150,000 to develop detailed and forward-thinking proposals to help their high streets and town centres to thrive.
Through our Fund, high streets like these will help define the spirit of ambition and innovation of the Northern Powerhouse and give a renewed energy to their local economies.
Robert Jenrick is the Conservative MP for Newark and the Communities Secretary.