A new £50 million fund for councils to support their local high streets get safely back to business was announced this week.
To prepare for the reopening of non-essential retail when the scientific advice allows, the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund will help councils in England introduce safety measures, kick-start local economies, get people back to work and customers back to the shops.
Around the region, many town and city councils are taking additional major steps to help the public feel safe.
Oxford City Council will spend £234,000 to kick start work on measures, including redesigning road space, to enable pedestrians and cyclists to safely maintain social distances once shops reopen.
The intention is that this is just the first tranche of funding for a programme of works to safely reopen shopping areas, particularly Oxford city centre. The work is being jointly developed by the City Council and Oxfordshire County Council.
The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund will support a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings and temporary barriers. This will help get businesses get ready for when they can begin trading safely, not only in high streets and town and city centres, but also in other public spaces like beachfronts and promenades.
Councils will also be able to use this money to develop local marketing campaigns to explain the changes to the public and reassure them that their high streets and other commercial areas are safe.
High Streets Minister Simon Clarke MP said: “As we begin to slowly return to normality, the re-opening our high streets will be key to kick-starting our economic recovery. Many businesses have already introduced creative ways of trading such as contactless collection or taking orders by instant messaging and shows that they are ready for the challenges ahead.
“That’s why we are providing an extra £50 million for councils to support a range of safety measures that will help get these businesses back on track and ensure that people can enjoy their time visiting their local high street safely again.”
Councils across the region are confirming their allocation. Redditch Borough Council will receive £75,088 from this fund.
Rachel Maclean, MP for Redditch, said: “This funding to help Redditch Borough Council in this endeavour is very welcome. Unlocking Redditch’s full potential is a top priority for myself and the council and this work is continuing as we develop Redditch’s Town Deal bid. We’re determined to access the full £25 million in order to regenerate our town.”
The £50 million funding comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) that the government is making available to councils to support businesses to re-open safely following guidance published on 13 May to help adapt urban centres and green spaces for social distancing during the pandemic.
The money will be allocated to councils on a per capita basis and will be ready to spend from 1 June.
The High Street Task Force, backed by government and run by the Institute for Place Management has already started delivering support for the coronavirus recovery effort and is aligning its work to provide expert advice, training and long-term planning and guidance to councils, business and community leaders.