The government has announced the launch of a new Future High Streets Fund to invest £675m to support local areas and fund plans to make their high streets and town centres fit for the future
The chancellor said that a new £675m future high streets fund would be established to support councils in drawing up formal plans for the transformation of their high streets.
He outlined that the fund could be used to help invest in any improvements needed, support the redevelopment of empty or under-used retail and office space into flats, and develop strategies to “deliver much-needed footfall to high street businesses”.
Commenting on the announcement, Martin Feakes, UK Buildings Market Director, Ramboll said: “The £650m town centre fund will be crucial in helping to revitalise the high street and keep our towns and cities alive. Whilst the face of retailing is changing quickly, the need for a high street and sense of place is still very important. The most ‘liveable’ locations are those where residents can work, live and play, and so vibrant town centres are key to making urban environments locations where people want to live.
“Often the default approach seems to be to knock down unused building stock and start again, however there is significant capacity in existing buildings within our towns, which it would be great to see these funds diverted to. By repurposing our existing building stock and using modern construction techniques and technology, there is the potential to unlock even greater value from the £650m fund. As well as facilitating more town centre rejuvenation, we can help drive further investment from third parties.
“It would be nice to see how the £650m fund for regeneration dovetails with the community infrastructure levy, which is still holding back the development of many of our town centre sites. We can’t expect a giveaway, and with Brexit uncertainty on the horizon in 2019 it is difficult to determine the tangible impact this budget can deliver, but infrastructure investment is crucial if the Government want to maintain stability and drive productivity.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, added: “It is important that the Chancellor has recognised the importance of investing in our high streets. He has announced a £675m Future High Streets Fund to allow councils to rejuvenate town centres.
“It is estimated that as many as 300,000 to 400,000 new homes alone could be created by making use of empty spaces above shops on our high streets. This is space just waiting to be turned into residential accommodation. There is a pressing need to re-invent many of our town centres in light of changing patterns of retail and leisure. The Government should be applauded for its ambition to safeguard the life of our high streets.”