Local authorities are to receive an additional £675m in co-funding to help redevelop their local high streets, the chancellor has announced.
The future high streets fund will help councils draw up transformation plans, with an increase in residential and office units on the high street particularly recommended. This follows on from an announcement extending the use of permitted development rights. The Budget red book said the government intends to ”trial a register of empty shops with selected local authorities, and trial a brokerage service to connect community groups to empty shops”.
Philip Hammond said the future high streets fund would help councils “invest in the improvements they need” and “facilitate redevelopment of under-used retail and commercial areas into residential”.
Drawing on evidence from Public Health England and the British Property Foundation, the government said in an announcement that high street areas with increased diversity of commercial, residential and office space experienced increased resilience and were “adapting more successfully” to economic pressures.
Councils will be able to compete for funding by submitting proposals to the Treasury which set out their “overall vision” and “specific improvements” that would contribute to that vision.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government will outline a full prospectus for the fund later this year, while first round expressions of interest can be submitted in spring 2019.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders welcomed the new fund, estimating that up to 400,000 new homes could be created by converting empty spaces above high street shops.
Mr Berry said: “We would urge councils to take this opportunity to look again at how they can work with local builders and developers to make better use of existing town centre building, and facilitate the development of wasted space above shops.”