On 26 August 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the Future High Street Fund has been increased so that a futher 50 high streets are taken forward to the next round of funding (in addition to the 50 announced in July 2019). The value of the fund will also be increased by £325m to £1 billion.
The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, confirmed the Government's aim to drive forward local growth by way of the Future High Streets Fund: "we're levelling up the regions and supporting local leaders to reimagine their town centres".
The Minister, who has recently been promoted to the Cabinet, also made a commitment to deliver the Government's flagship post-Brexit regeneration initiative, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which will replace EU funds and other funds which are due to expire in 2020. Jake Berry confirmed that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will "be targeted to where it is needed most" which is understood to mean places which have not shared in the economic growth of recent years. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Future High Street Fund will compliment the £1.6bn Stronger Towns Fund, creating an armoury of new regeneration funds, which some have suggested will be used to soften the economic impact of Brexit.
The fund, which is administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ("MHCLG"), was originally launched in December 2018 and has been reinvigorated by Boris Johnson's administration. The fund meets two of the new Government's aims, empowering local decision makings by devolving power from Whitehall to the regions and reshaping town centres and high streets in a way that drives economic growth and sustainably improves living standards.
A full list of the 50 additional towns (which can be found here) includes Grimsby Town Centre, Salisbury City Centre, Doncaster Waterdale, Northallerton, Carlisle City Centre, Blyth Town Centre, Bacup Town Centre and Middlesborough Town Centre.
The original towns shortlisted (which can be found here) includes Crewe, Whitehaven, Buxton, Bishop Auckland, Nelson, Mansfield and Yeovil.
In order to receive funding, the local authorities for the 100 shortlisted towns must now develop a strategic vision and business case for specific projects. The shortlisted authorities are eligible to receive up to £150,000 of "capacity funding" to develop their detailed proposals.
There is no guidance publicly available on how to apply for the capacity funding but the government website states that shortlisted authorities will receive further guidance in due course. This is expected to set out the compliance requirements which must be met during the delivery of the improvement measures such as compliance with State aid law and public procurement rules.
Applicants are expected to seek between £5-10m per application, and each applicant can receive a maximum of £25m funding.
The Government has identified the following activities which may receive support under the Future High Streets Fund:
MHCLG have led on a number of initiatives to help high streets adapt to the changes in consumer behaviour in the 21st century and to celebrate best practice. These include the creation of the High Streets Task Force, the Open Doors Project and the Great British High Street Awards. However it is the Stronger Towns Fund, the Future High Streets Fund and UK Shared Prosperity Fund which are expected to make the biggest difference.
DWF's specialist Public Sector law team has extensive experience of advising on applications for grant funding, including advising the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on public funding initiatives. If you wish to discuss the fund in more detail please get in contact.