Earlier in the summer the Government announced the latest iteration of its strategy to regenerate England's high streets. Boris Johnson’s ‘levelling up speech’ detailed the Government’s ambitions to re-balance the economy through improving standards of living across the country, growing the private sector and increasing and broadening opportunity. The speech hinted at devolution of further powers to England with individual counties benefiting from their own metro mayor-style devolution deals. Further details will be set out in the eagerly anticipated Levelling Up White Paper due to be published later this year.
The High Streets Strategy is central to the Government’s levelling up agenda. It aims to breathe new life into town centres and deliver visible changes through transforming derelict buildings, cleaning up the streets and supporting a renewed sense of community. Councils will be given the power to take over derelict buildings through compulsory purchase orders if property owners stall on regeneration plans. Funding was committed to embed greener forms of transport and measures were outlined to tackle graffiti, litter and chewing gum across town centres. In addition, Government funding will be available to save local venues loved by a community and the streamlined pavement licensing system for the hospitality sector has been extended for 12 months with the intention to make this permanent. 15 further towns deals were also announced helping to support areas to build back better from the pandemic.
The High Streets Strategy follows major investment and action from government to level up opportunity and prosperity across all areas of the country, including through the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, the £220 million UK-wide Community Renewal Fund, the £830 million Future High Streets Fund, the £3.6bn Towns Fund and High Street Heritage Action Zones.
Simultaneous to Boris’ levelling up speech, Lichfields published the ‘Moving on up? Levelling up town centres across Northern England’ Insight report which reviewed the various funding bids and identified six key themes which underpin the plans and strategies: health and wellbeing, education, tourism, heritage, digital and creative, and town centre living. The Insight provides evidence across the North of innovation, optimism and ambition in the town centre sector.
Yorkshire and Humber are benefitting from an impressive £531m funding package as part of the Government’s levelling-up agenda. This includes £96m from the £830m Future High Streets Fund which is helping to deliver transformative change to struggling high streets, while £422m has been secured from the £3.6bn Towns Fund which is supporting imaginative proposals to drive economic growth. A further £13m has been secured from the High Street Heritage Action Zones which seeks to transform buildings which have potential to fuel economic, social and cultural recovery. Earlier this summer, Boris Johnson announced two new towns deals in the Yorkshire and Humber region, £21.6 million for Stainforth, South Yorkshire and £17.5 million for Todmorden in Calderdale. Whilst they are different places, they face some common issues and the new funding seeks to unlock the potential of both towns.
Stainforth was awarded £21.6 million to help deliver a number of projects to unlock the town’s potential. The Station Gateway proposals seek to create a better arrival experience through a bespoke replacement overbridge. The Town Centre hub scheme includes a raft of initiatives including streetscape and shop front improvements, a new civic space and a new community hub to drive footfall to the town. A key element of Stainforth’s plans includes restoring the Hatfield colliery headstocks and regenerating the site to provide new employment space for start-ups and a new country park for outdoor events and activities.
Todmorden was successfully awarded a £17.5 million share of the Towns Deal fund to create a new public square in Todmorden to increase community space and highlight the towns green credentials, along with building a five-star eco hostel and setting up a digital enterprise and learning centre. The proposals seek to turn Bramsche Square into a new public square and civic space with a reconfigured Pollination Gardens to enhance its strategic location between three key heritage assets in the heart of the town centre. Nearby on the Lever Street Council owned car park, a boutique eco hostel/hotel is proposed, this will improve and diversify the towns offer and facilitate planned growth in cultural and tourism activities.
These exciting projects in Stainforth and Todmorden, and the Government’s High Streets Strategy, demonstrate the widespread ambition to breathe new life into town centres, helping to transform them into vibrant places to live, work and visit.