Government’s High Streets Task Force: first pilot areas revealed

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The first 14 of 20 pilot areas to receive tailored support to rejuvenate their town centres under the government’s Future High Streets Fund have been revealed.

Last summer some 101 areas were named as recipients of up to £25m each as part of the wider £3.6 billion investment in towns and high streets. Some 20 of those are to be selected to “lead the way” for the project with the initial 14 (see list below) just named.

Those 14 areas will benefit from bespoke support and guidance from the new High Streets Task Force, announced by the government in response to recommendations of an expert panel on the high street chaired by Sir John Timpson.

The High Streets Task Force will give face-to-face support, access to “cutting-edge research”, new online training, and local footfall data to give businesses that “vital edge and transform local town centres”.

“Central to the mission of this new government is levelling up towns and regions, ensuring prosperity and opportunity are available to everyone. Over the course of 2020, we will invest hundreds of millions into projects to transform our town centres and support bespoke plans to meet the needs of individual local communities,” said Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick.

The 14 pilots named so far are:

  1. Salford – Swinton Town centre
  2. Croydon – Thornton Heath
  3. Staffordshire Moorlands – Cheadle
  4. Rushmoor – Aldershot Town Centre
  5. Birmingham – Stirchley
  6. Hyndburn – Accrington Town Centre
  7. South Lakeland – Kendal
  8. Preston – Friargate
  9. Coventry – Coventry City Centre
  10. Hartlepool – Hartlepool Town Centre
  11. Cheshire West and Chester – Ellesmere Port Town Centre
  12. Sandwell – West Bromwich Town Centre
  13. Knowsley – Huyton Town Centre
  14. Manchester – Withington District Centre

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Rt Hon Jake Berry added: “Every place has its own unique strengths and challenges but all our town centres and high streets have one thing in common – they are the lifeblood of communities.”

In addition the government is seeking views on whether an online register of commercial properties would make it easier to bring empty shops back into use.

The government wants to understand people’s experiences of leasing commercial property – with a view to making ownership of high street properties more transparent, making it easier for businesses and community groups to find space and supporting investment in local areas.