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Regeneration in Blackburn, North Devon and North Tyneside

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Three councils are tackling high street blight in different ways:

Art and culture

POP, or Project Our Place, is a six-week pilot project to use empty shops in Blackburn’s town centre as arts centres. With funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills Transformation Fund and the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council, the council hopes to promote community cohesion, learning and regeneration.

One venue has been used as a studio and artists have run workshops. Other educational sessions have included poetry, story-telling and music workshops.

Alan Cottam (Con), executive member for regeneration and environment, says the benefits of such a scheme are far reaching.

“Using empty shops for creative projects is a great way to boost the town centre. It not only makes use of disused space but helps bring people into an area, which benefits the surrounding shops.

Partnership

The fact that Barnstaple high street has 50% fewer empty shops than the national average has been put down to a joint effort between the council and local businesses.

The council is a member of Barnstaple Town Centre Management, along with the police, local businesses and major chains such as Marks & Spencer, and has worked hard to preserve the area’s sense of identity.

BTCM set up projects to promote the high street, including street theatre and exhibitions in empty shop units.

Street scene

An empty shop in Whitley Bay made the news last week when it was fitted with a false display. The derelict property now looks like a high-class delicatessen as part of a strategy funded through the Department for Communities & Local Government’s Empty Shops Fund (see above).

Colourful designs featuring different shops can be taped inside the empty property’s windows. Contact information is also displayed for anyone wanting to rent the property.

Deputy mayor Judith Wallace (Con) said: “This is a simple and cost-effective approach that keeps the retail unit available for new uses and also contributes to the street scene.”

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