An additional 50 towns have been added to the shortlist for the the £1 billion Future High Streets Fund, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed today.
The towns revealed today will join an existing 50 to have already been shortlisted, and will receive £150,000, which could be used for initiatives such as improving transport links, converting empty retail units into new homes and workplaces, and investing in vital infrastructure.
The extension to the shortlist comes on the back of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund announced last month, which included an additional £325 million for the Future High Streets Fund.
Johnson said of the initiative: “Our high streets are right at the heart of our communities, and I will do everything I can to make sure they remain vibrant places where people want to go, meet and spend their money.
“But with our town centres facing challenges, we’re today expanding the High Streets Fund to support over 100 high streets to regenerate – backed by £1 billion of vital investment.
“This scheme is going to reenergise and transform even more of our high streets – helping them to attract new businesses, boost local growth, and create new infrastructure and jobs.”
The news comes as the high street faces some of its most challenging trading to date. Last week the CBI revealed that retail sales volumes and orders both fell at their fastest since December 2008 in the year to August, and that sentiment was “crumbling” among retailers.
Some 50 retail bosses have already written to Chancellor Sajid Javid to demand action over the disproportionately high burden placed on retailers when it comes to business rates.
Retail accounts for 5% of the economy yet pays 25% of all business rates. The letter was co-ordinated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and signatories included the bosses of M&S, River Island and Harrods.
Many major fashion retailers are carrying out store closure programmes and/or are trading under CVAs to reduce their rent bills including Arcadia, Mothercare, Monsoon Accessorize, New Look, Debenhams and Select.
Ann Summers announced last week that it had secured rent reductions on 95 of its 100 stores but has not ruled out a CVA for the remaining five, and footwear chain Office has said it would close between 10-15 of its stores as upcoming leases expire.
House of Fraser has continued to struggle under new owner Sports Direct, which has extended its administration period by a year and it is expected to close further stores. Following Sports Direct’s recent acquisition of Jack Wills, it closed eight of its 98 stores.
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “High streets have a crucial role to play as we work to grow the economy of all parts of the country.
“Our £1 billion Future High Streets Fund is key to delivering this, empowering local leaders to help transform their high streets and town centres as consumer habits change, by investing in housing, workplaces, infrastructure and culture.
“Interest in the Fund has been huge, and with so many strong applications, I am extending the number of towns moving forward to the next phase and getting a chance to develop their proposals.”
The fill list of towns going to the next phase of the Future High Streets Fund is as follows: