The funding package includes a £10 million High Street Innovation Fund. Kick started by tax-payers’ money, the Government hopes that councils and landlords will boost the fund so the scheme could see £30 million being made available to help small and start-up businesses bring vacant high street shops back into use. The fund has been allocated to 100 local authorities blighted by empty shops, each of whom will receive £100,000.
Martin Blackwell, Chief Executive at the Association of Town Centre Managers, commented:
“We recognise that £100,000, while useful, is not a panacea. It is vital that local authorities spend it wisely, learning from what has been achieved already. Additionally, we want all locations across the UK, beneficiaries or not, to benefit from the knowledge gained as new ideas are piloted.”
Pop up shops are likely to play a starring role in the implementation of the fund by local authorities.
The Government is encouraging local authorities to use new ways of getting empty properties occupied, including offering business rate discounts – which councils are now able to do following a change in the law. Councils are also being asked to use their planning powers – including ‘meanwhile uses’ – to help revitalise the high street.