Could Weston High Street receive £25m cash boost?

PUBLISHED: 16:00 11 February 2019

M&S is set to close in Weston High Street.	Picture: MARK ATHERTON

M&S is set to close in Weston High Street. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Archant

Weston-super-Mare’s struggling High Street, after suffering a series of bitter blows, could benefit from a multi-million-pound cash injection.

The Government has launched the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF), a £675million kitty which will be handed out to local authorities in hope of revitalising town centres.

Authorities can benefit from a windfall of up to £25million from the fund and North Somerset Council is expected to put Weston forward in the bidding process.

The town’s High Street has suffered several closures in recent years despite efforts to regenerate the town centre – the most damaging of which coming in January as Marks & Spencer announced plans to end its century-long stint in central Weston.

Big names like BHS, Topshop, Game and Thorntons have turned their back on the town, as spending trends continue to shift to online shopping.

But the council hopes to reverse the trend by securing a share of the funding.

Its spokesman said: “The FHSF will be offering up to £25million for high streets and town centres, with most successful bids expected to be in the region of £5-10million.

“We will be bidding and we are currently in the processes of reviewing which area best fits the criteria set by the Government. Phase one of the bid will be put forward at the end of March.”

The Government hopes the fund will drive changes to town centres which future proof them against the growing dominance of online shopping and restore high streets as a focal point for communities.

The FHSF prospectus says: “High streets lie at the heart of our communities and local economies, creating jobs, nurturing small businesses and injecting billions of pounds into our economy.

“But the way we shop and the way communities use their high streets is changing: we’re shopping more online, making fewer big shopping trips and shopping ‘little and more often’. This changes the nature of what makes a high street successful.

“The Government is committed to helping high streets evolve and adapt to these changes. We want to encourage vibrant town centres where people live, shop, use services, and spend leisure time.

“The FHSF will support and fund local areas’ plans to make their high streets and town centres fit for the future.”

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