Government puts £675m on the table to improve town centres - and Northampton must make a bid for it

Northampton has a chance to bid for a share of a £675million pot to help bring its high street into the modern age.

Wednesday, 2nd January 2019, 1:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 11:33 am
675million worth of funding is on offer to help transform town centres.

Millions of pounds are available to towns in Britain under a Government scheme to rethink how to draw people in and build a community.

The Future High Streets Fund was launched last month with a footnote that the Government wanted to hear 'new' ideas to revitalise towns - like converting shops into homes, creating workspaces and working to make a visit to the high street 'an experience'.

Now, it is up to Northampton Borough Council and Northampton's Business Improvement District (BID) to make a pitch for the funding.

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Chair of Northampton BID Rob Purdie.

Chair of Northampton BID, Rob Purdie, said: "Here in Northampton we have all the structural problems every town is facing.

"There's an emphasis these days to make town centres more mixed-used and 'experiential', and make the community part of it rather than it be strictly about shopping.

"If I could change things tomorrow, I would like to see improvements to our road network around the town centre to give people more effective access to parking. I would also look into converting the empty Marks & Spencer and BHS units into some form of workspace to bring employees into the town."

The Future High Street fund was opened last month with an aim to redevelop town centres and support plans to reduce congestion, build housing and created places to work.

The fund also includes a £55million pot to restore historic buildings and put them back into use - such as the two burnt-out buildings in Gold Street and Abington Street.

It comes after the Chronicle & Echo's readers showed they wanted improvements made to Abington Street and a better variety of shops as part of this newspaper's town centre survey in July 2018.

Councillor Tim Hadland, Borough Council cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, said: “We welcome the launch of this fund and have been having discussions with key stakeholders including the Town Centre BID on re-shaping the town centre.

“Town centres and high streets up and down the country are experiencing extreme pressure due to people’s changing shopping habits.

“In Northampton, we are lucky enough to have a range of fantastic independent outlets which helps differentiate it from many carbon-copy high streets.

“We offer these smaller businesses strong support through our Business Incentive Scheme grants but access to a significant funding pot would mean we can do a great deal more.”