Fifteen towns share £1.5m aid to revive High Streets

A run-down street with closed shops in Altrincham, northern England More than one in ten shops on UK High Streets are empty, figures show

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Fifteen areas in England are to share £1.5m in aid as part of a government scheme to regenerate the High Street.

The plan has been spearheaded by retail expert Mary Portas, who has described the traditional High Street as being at crisis point.

Twelve towns, dubbed as Portas' Pilots, were given cash to rejuvenate their shopping areas earlier this year.

High Streets in London, Liverpool, Hatfield, Brighton are among those to benefit from the new round of funding.

The 15 areas are: Ashford; Berwick; Braintree; London Road in Brighton; Hatfield; Royal Leamington Spa; Lodge Lane in Liverpool; the Cut in the Waterloo area of central London; Forest Hill in south London; Chrisp Street, Watney Market, Roman Road in Tower Hamlets, east London; Loughborough; Lowestoft; Morecambe; Rotherham, and Tiverton.

The funding for the three London areas is to be provided by the Greater London Authority, while the government will put up the remaining £1.2m.

The areas say they will use the funding in different ways. For example, Tiverton in Devon says it plans to improve parking facilities to encourage more visitors and tourists, while in Liverpool aspiring young entrepreneurs will be offered a mentoring service.

More than 400 towns made applications for funding and business support following a report by Ms Portas into the state of the High Street.

Emma King, town centre manager in Lowestoft, which is one of the successful bidders, said it should make a big difference to them.

Start Quote

This government's failed economic policy and double-dip recession made in Downing Street is clearly damaging High Streets ”

End Quote Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow planning minister

"It's going to open up such a lot of advice and information for us," she told BBC News.

"It's not only the £100,000 funding that we'll get, which of course we're going to spend wisely and will help enormously, but it's also raising the town's profile."

Those areas unsuccessful so far will still be able to bid for a share of a £5.5m being made available for individual projects, Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said.

"Things are tough for everybody, and retail in particular," Mr Shapps said.

Latest figures show the recession in the UK deepening and the output of the retail sector falling.

"This process isn't going to just wipe away the backdrop of what's going on in the eurozone and the rest of it, but it is part of the solution," he said.

Cutting red tape

More than 11% of town centre shops are currently empty across the UK and the number of shoppers has been falling.

Last week, the Department for Communities announced measures to try to revitalise High Streets, in response to recommendations in Ms Portas's report.

Ministers say they will cut red tape to make it easier for business people to move into empty premises and open so-called pop-up shops.

Retailers will now also have up to two years to apply for planning permission instead of having to do so immediately.

But critics suggest high rents and rates are a more serious obstacle to reviving High Streets.

Shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods said: "There are now a record 23,406 empty shops in town centres alone but ministers are still failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation.

"This government's failed economic policy and double-dip recession made in Downing Street is clearly damaging High Streets across the country and short-term schemes like this will not be enough to save them."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    £100,000 per town isn't going to go very far. The decline of the high street reflects retail decline irrespective of where it is. Job insecurity and bleak prospects have probably made most of us stop, think and say to ourselves - do I really need XYZ? The retail glut of the past few years was artificially fuelled, and we've emerged blinking into stark reality, chastened and wiser.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Some people have mentioned the massive Westfield shopping malls. Merry Hill, Dudley is one such Westfield site, now complete with 'city living' (euphemism for over priced shoeboxes) and has decimated Brierley Hill high streetand market. All the little specialist shops have shut up and moved away. It's tragic. Very little North of the Watford Gap seems to matter to the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    I own a small shop In a small market town;
    rent £15,000 a year
    rates £6000 a year
    Rubbish collection £1500 a year
    Licences £1000 a year
    Then electric, 2 part time staff and so on.
    There is virtually no parking in the town and we have alreadt 3 superstores with planning for a forth just approved.
    We are good at what we do and inventive but the game is so ONE SIDED - Each year justb gets harder!

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I used to pop in to Brighton for a coffee after working from home. Now it costs me twice the price of a coffee just to park the car and that remains in place until 8pm!!!! The councils need to stop being greedy and encourage people in. A local coffeeshop has a voucher on the back of a parking ticket to give you a free coffee, now that is showing initiative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Sorry but it's a waste of time and money. Shopping habits have changed, lots of people now shop via the internet and all the main supermarkets deliver. There's no need to go in to town, search for a high cost parking space and struggle between shops and car with purchases. It's all delivered to your door.

    The High Street is in terminal decline.


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