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Lancashire's high streets could be helped with extra funding

shopping

8:31am 6th January 2019

Half a dozen of Lancashire’s local authorities have confirmed that they will be bidding for a share of a new government fund to redesign their high streets.

By Local Democracy Reporter Paul Faulkner

The Future High Streets initiative, which opened last week, aims to encourage local authorities to rethink what their traditional shopping areas have to offer – and guard them against changing consumer habits.

Blackburn, Blackpool, Preston, Wyre, Fylde, Nelson have all stated that it is their intention to bid. Chorley and Rossendale Councils have said they are considering their options.

The remaining district councils in the county were all approached for comment.

The government is inviting applications from councils which can demonstrate “significant challenges” facing high streets in their area and where investment is needed in physical infrastructure.

Projects which could benefit from the fund include those which reduce reliance on retail and create mixed developments of residential and office space – alongside shops.

Research from Public Health Health England suggests that the introduction of new uses for the high street can help make it more resilient to change.

Expressions of interest have to be submitted within the next ten weeks. Specific proposals will then be assessed over the summer and must demonstrate an overall “ambition” for an area.

Blackpool Council says that it has been drawing up potential schemes in advance of the initiative opening for applications.

A spokesperson for the authority said:

“We have been aware of the fund for some time and have been exploring a number of draft town centre proposals for potential.

“Once we have had an opportunity to fully digest the terms and conditions of the fund, we will determine which of these schemes best fits with both the funding guidance and our wider plans for the regeneration of the town centre.”

Wyre Council revealed its bid will focus on “reviving empty units which carry great potential” and Fylde Council said that it was the authority’s “intention” to make an application once officers have studied the prospectus for the scheme.

preston fishergate congestion 2
Fishergate in Preston's city centre

A spokesperson for Preston City Council said:

This is a welcome opportunity for further investment in our High Streets and we expect the demand for funding to be extremely high.

“We are considering the detail of the prospectus but do expect to submit an expression of interest by the March deadline.”

Pendlle Council has confirmed its intention to bid, but does not have details of its application as yet.

The Federation of Small Business in Lancashire is encouraging local authorities to submit strong bids for the fund.

Area Leader for Lancashire, Rachel Kay, said:

We would like to see all our local authorities try to secure additional funds to support our town centres and high streets.

The growth of online shopping and out of town shopping centres continue to be a real challenge to businesses on high streets throughout the county.

“Small businesses, in particular, have found the last few months challenging and deserve some support to make sure they can keep serving the communities in which they operate.”

SHOPPING STATS

1 percent – total retail sales online (October 2000)

20 percent – total retail sales online (October 2018)

4,412 – reduction in retail units across UK (Jan-Jun 2018)

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