Government to invest £3.6 billion into over 100 towns
Posted on 16th February 2021
As of June last year the government announced a proposal that would put jobs and infrastructure at the centre of its economic growth strategy. The ambitious plan is part of the Prime Ministers larger strategy to tackle the economic effects of the pandemic. With the main points of the budget to tackle; building new homes, fixing the NHS, to rectify the skills crisis, and to mend the gap in opportunity and productivity between the regions across the UK.
The ‘Towns Fund’ in particular is about improving the UK’s High Streets and Town Centres. The first phase will be an £800 million spend, across 100 towns. The towns are expected to create an in-depth plan to show where they will use the funds effectively and the proposals should consider the long term economic and productivity growth for the town. Connectivity, land use and economic assets, as well as cultural assets and the development of skills and enterprise will all be key considerations.
The funding is a way to create new jobs, train local people and develop our deteriorating high streets. Empty shops have been on the rise, with 2020 seeing the highest level in six years. The pandemic has naturally driven people to online shopping resulting in even more local shops having to close. The so called bigger brands are not immune and have struggled during the pandemic, those particularly tied to store only sales, or those that sell only non-essential items. Charity shops often spring up in those empty buildings, but even they have not been able to do so.
What does this mean for our high streets in 2021? Hopefully this new pot of cash and of course the easing of restriction with the much needed vaccine, will allow councils the best chance to recreate these disappearing spaces. Repurposing empty shops to become community spaces that encourage visitors to stay and socialise. Outdoor spaces need to move away from vehicle-first, and lean into pedestrianisation and urban greening.
Parklets were a new pop-up fad for 2020, allowing business to serve food to people who wished to sit outside. With planters and seating taking over space that was once grey and empty.
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