The Future High Streets Fund, which has just been opened to applications by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), is a competitive funding programme that is designed to renew and reshape town centres and high streets in England a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability. In this first phase of the programme, local authorities should define the specific challenges faced by their high streets. They should set out their overarching strategic ambition for what the high street or town centre needs to do to adapt to changes in consumer demands and then give details of individual projects with a clear economic benefit.
The scheme will invest in improvements to town centre infrastructure, including:
o Increasing access to high streets;
o Reducing congestion;
o Supporting redevelopment around high streets; and
o Enable housing and new workspaces to be created.
The fund will also support the regeneration of heritage high streets (up to £55 million of the overall fund). This has two elements:
1. Helping to restore historic high street properties through Historic England, and
2. Equipping communities with their own resources to put historic buildings back into economic use – for example as residential buildings, new work spaces or cultural venues, supported by the Architectural Heritage Fund.
Local areas will be required to provide a set of proposals for their overall vision that they wish to achieve for their high street and town or city centre and specific improvements that would contribute to that overall vision.
The Fund will serve two purposes: it will support 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. It will also then co-fund with local areas projects including:
o Investment in physical infrastructure, including improving public and other transport access, improving flow and circulation within a town / city centre, congestion-relieving infrastructure, other investment in physical infrastructure needed to support new housing and workspace development and existing local communities, and the regeneration of heritage high streets; and
o Investment in land assembly, including to support the densification of residential and workspace around high streets in place of under-used retail units.
The programme will contribute up to a maximum of £25 million to each successful place. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government expects to see a range of project sizes coming forward, many of which are in the region of £5-10 million per town centre. As such, it is not expected that the full amount will be allocated to each area.