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Future High Streets bids for digital, transport and parking

Towns and cities across the UK shortlisted for government funding are proposing to use the money to invest in digital, transport and parking solutions to transform and future-proof high streets.

More than 50 areas across the country – from Whitehaven in Cumbria to Penzance in Cornwall (see full list here) – have been shortlisted for the second phase of the government’s £675m Future High Streets Fund. They will receive up to £150,000 to submit detailed proposals for further capital funding for their projects.

Councils can bid for up to £25m, and project proposals are expected to range from £5m and £10m per town, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government suggests. The successful bids will be announced by spring 2020.

Several draft council proposals, seen by Drapers, have outlined digital as a key area of investment, to help the high street adapt to changing technology. Other bidders are expected to ask for a share in the fund for transport and parking solutions.

Copeland Borough Council has submitted several strategic themes for the town of Whitehaven, which include initiating a “digital revolution” by developing digital experiences in leisure, tourism and retail, and introducing creative transport solutions and parking provision. It also wants funding to work with public and private investors to repurpose, repair and renew heritage assets, while creating hubs, workspace and housing and opportunities.

Mike Starkie, mayor of Copeland, said: “Whitehaven town centre continues to make major strides and has so much to offer our residents, visitors and investors, but we do recognise that something bolder, innovative and more transformational is needed to help the town grow and modernise further.”

Elsewhere, a spokesman from Winsford Town Council in Cheshire said its detailed bid “will aim to secure millions of pounds worth of capital funding to invest in the physical infrastructure of the town centre, improve transport access, support any proposed change of use, and the adaptation of the high street to changing technology”.

Wyre Forest District Council has also welcomed the news that its bid funding to help Kidderminster town centre was successful. Its vision is based around three principal projects: bringing the former magistrates’ court and indoor market back into an active mixed use, developing the Crown House and Bull Ring area as a gateway into the town and bringing forward the redevelopment of the Bromsgrove Street car park area.

Councillor Nick Mannion, Cheshire East council cabinet member for environment and regeneration, said better transport connectivity is needed for the town of Crewe: “This is great news for Crewe but we recognise that we need to do a lot more work to build the business case for funding. We have laid solid foundations for regeneration but believe there’s a lot more that can be done to help Crewe achieve its potential and re-establish itself as the primary destination in south Cheshire for residents and visitors.”

“The council will now work with local stakeholders to prioritise the key projects it wishes to take forward and will investigate development options for existing council assets, which could be used to diversify the range of uses in the town centre and attract more people to spend time there. This could include opportunities for environmental improvements, better connectivity, green technology and a wider range of homes in the heart of the town.”

Other councils have more specific project proposals. Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and resources, Jane Scullion, said it aims to transform the town of Halifax: “Our bid [will focus] on better connecting the top of the town with the attractions at the bottom end, such as The Piece Hall, library, Square Chapel and Woolshops shopping centre.

“The proposals will build on the success of our significant heritage assets and nurture the town’s growing cultural and music sectors by creating new attractive spaces for people to eat, meet and attend events throughout the town centre, increasing footfall and spend, particularly for businesses at the top end of town.”

Meanwhile, Darlington, County Durham, plans to create an enclosed, glazed winter garden on the eastern side of its Victorian covered market. 

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