Crewe, Winsford and Stafford are through to the second phase of a multi-million fund that will transform their high streets and make them fit for the future.
From improving transport and access into town centres to converting retail units into new homes, the £675 million Future High Streets Fund will help local leaders to reinvent their town centres.
Those successful towns will now receive up to £150,000 of new funding to work up detailed project proposals, based on their initial plans. Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will work closely with them, focussing on those places that have “shovel ready” projects where there might be opportunities to accelerate these.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: "Our high streets lie at the heart of local communities – creating jobs, boosting the economy and helping small businesses thrive.
"But new technology and changes in the way we shop means they also face growing challenges, so I’m delighted over 50 towns will initially benefit from this scheme.
"The funding will breathe new life into town centres and – together with measures such as small business rate cuts and opening up empty shops – will transform our high streets for the future."
High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: "High Streets are a crucial part of our local economies and people care about them because they are also the centres of their community.
"But we recognise that changing consumer behaviour and the rise of online shopping presents a significant challenge and that’s why we are taking action to help them evolve.
"Many of our high streets are successfully re-inventing themselves and with these new plans now in development, local leaders, who know their areas best, will be driving forward the transformation of their town centres into further great success stories."
The Future High Streets Fund was launched in December 2018 as part of the government’s plan for the high street.
Last month the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport together with the Architectural Heritage Fund and National Lottery Heritage Fund announced a £62 million package of support to breathe new life into historic high streets across the country, to restore historic buildings, create new work spaces and cultural venues. As part of the overall funding, £55 million has been allocated from the Future High Streets Fund.
Councillor Nick Mannion, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member for environment and regeneration, said: “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.
To support the council in developing its business case, it will be awarded a resource funding grant.
During a second round of FHSF applications in 2020, other towns in Cheshire East will be given further consideration.
The council has so far received no notification – either way – regarding its FHSF bid for Macclesfield. However, the authority will shortly be submitting an expression of interest to Historic England for the High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme.
There are strict criteria for this fund, the main one being that the scheme needs to be in a conservation area in a town centre.
Macclesfield was put forward for this fund following the commissioning of an expert consultant team to undertake an independent assessment of all towns in the borough, and to recommend which town centre should be the subject of any expressions of interest.
This assessment recommended that Macclesfield would perform best against the criteria.
Cllr Mannion said: “It can be presumed that we have not been successful with our bid for Macclesfield and while this is obviously very disappointing news, we will continue to push on with our plans and strategy to deliver a revitalised Macclesfield town centre – ensuring it is a great place to live, work and visit.”
In September, Cabinet is due to consider the strategic regeneration framework for Macclesfield, which sets out the re-energised vision, strategy and ‘route map’ to deliver jobs and economic growth in the town centre.
The framework – which went out to public consultation earlier this year and is being recommended for approval and adoption by cabinet – also includes high-level objectives for the town centre and a series of priority next steps for translating the vision into tangible action.