New half a billion pounds of funding looks to transform and save the country’s high streets
On the 26th December, the Government announced new funding of £675million to restore and transform local high streets up and down the country in a bid to save high streets as more consumers move online.
The Future High Streets fund will provide vital resources to help local leaders implement new visions for town centres and high streets so they remain a key element of local communities in the future, with the Government highlighting that high street stores are having to evolve and adapt in a shifting retail landscape.
In particular, the impact of online sales was raised as a core factor in the recent decline of local high streets.
According to the Office for National Statistics, online retailing accounted for less than one percent of retail sales while in August 2018, almost a fifth of all retail sales took place online. Additionally, online sales increased six-fold between 2007 and 2018, whilst in-store sales lagged behind.
This rise in online retail has reduced barriers to entry in the retail market claims the Government, with online retailers able to offer increasingly competitive pricing and often greater stock choices and convenience in comparison to their physical counterparts.
As a result, consumers are “making fewer big shopping trips and shopping ‘little and more often’” says the Government, with shoppers now more interested in the overall high street ‘experience’, wanting a sense of community and looking for services not available online.
Championed by Sir John Timpson, Chair of the High Streets Expert Panel and owner of shoe repair chain Timpson, the new Government strategy will aim to turn high streets into modern community hubs, with co-funding being used to consolidate properties on the high street, improve transport and access into town centres and convert retail units into new homes
High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “We all know high streets are changing, we can’t hide from this reality. But we’re determined to ensure they continue sit at the heart of our communities for generations to come.
“To do this we have to support investment in infrastructure, boosting local economies and ensuring people are able to get the most out of their local high streets. Empowering leaders on the ground is key too – they best understand the challenges facing their areas.
“Our Future High Streets Fund will drive forward this change, transforming our town centres into the thriving community hubs of the future.”
The Future High Street fund will focus on supporting local areas to prepare long-term strategies for their high streets and town centres, including funding a new High Streets Taskforce to provide expertise and hands-on support to local areas.
Sir John Timpson commented: “I have learnt, from my own business, that the best way to get things done is to give people on the front line the freedom to get on with the job in the way they know best.
“I am pleased that the government has acted on my panel’s recommendations to set up a Future High Streets Fund to help local leaders turn their plans into reality.
“By helping our towns create their own individual community hub, I believe we will have vibrant town centres to provide a much-needed place for face to face contact in the digital age.”
Local leaders are urged to read the fund’s prospectus and download the application form, submitting any applications to receive funding to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for applications is the 22nd March 2019.