The UK Government has today unveiled a plan designed to breathe new life into the nation’s high streets, which have been battered by the pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his vision for high streets at UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) in Coventry, which forms part of his wider “levelling up” strategy.
Transforming high streets is a key part of the strategy and, Johnson claimed, would lead to visible changes to local areas and communities across England, transforming derelict buildings, cleaning up streets, and supporting a renewed sense of community.
Councils in England will be given the power to transform towns, taking over derelict buildings through compulsory purchase orders so they can be converted into new homes if property owners stall on regeneration plans. Councils will also be encouraged to use existing powers to convert empty offices into housing, and empty shops will be transformed into entertainment venues or other new businesses without the need for planning permission.
Local economies and plans for growth will be boosted with 15 Town Deals totalling £335 million confirmed today. The Town Deals will fund community regeneration projects including repurposing empty shops on high streets, creating new public spaces, transforming a riverfront area into a community hub with entertainment and leisure venues, and creating a new digital enterprise and learning centre. Town Deals have now been offered to all 101 places that were invited to develop proposals.
The 15 towns and funding allocations:
|Town||Allocation (£ million)|
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said of the plans: “As we build back better from the pandemic, we are transforming our high streets across the UK into the kind of vibrant places we will want to visit, work and call home for generations to come.
“This strategy sets out a vision for entrepreneurship to thrive, where local shops and businesses are supported with permanent al fresco dining, derelict eyesores transformed into quality homes and new hubs for business and entertainment encouraged.
“With more funding for town centres and powers for communities to take a stake in their local area, we are delivering on our commitments to level up and put power in the hands of local people. I look forward to seeing what local communities have in store for national celebrations such as Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year – a remarkable occasion that we will mark in style.”
New funding will be committed for “mini-Holland” schemes across England to embed greener forms of transport, encouraging cycling and walking by installing segregated cycle lanes on main roads, expanding space for pedestrians and creating low-traffic neighbourhoods. Funding will be drawn from the £2bn fund for cycling and walking announced by the Transport Secretary in May 2020.
The government said it would also tackle graffiti and litter across town centres. A new taskforce will work to eradicate chewing gum from the streets, with gum producers investing £10m over the next five years to help fund councils to clean up gum from the streets and support schemes to prevent people from littering in the first place.
Councils will also be encouraged to take a more hands-on approach to cleaning up graffiti, supported by £2m in funding.
Government funding will be available to save local venues loved by a community. Details have been published setting out how community groups across the UK can bid for up to £250,000 in matched funding from the £150m Community Ownership Fund to take over local pubs, theatres, shops and sports grounds at risk of closure.
In some cases up to £1m will be available to establish sports clubs or help to buy sports grounds at risk without community intervention.
Hospitality will also be given a boost with the streamlined pavement licensing system extended for 12 months across England so more shops, cafes and restaurants can make use of outdoor areas, with an intention to make this permanent.
The government will also work to bring back street parties, making it easier for people to hold celebrations in their neighbourhood streets and picnics during national celebrations like the Commonwealth Games.