Wednesday, April 15, 2009

News: Innovative Rotherham retail scheme highlighted by Government


Temporarily converting empty shops into social enterprises, local art displays or learning centres will help innovative communities prevent high streets declining said Communities Secretary Hazel Blears yesterday. Ms Blears chaired a seminar in Stockport with Culture Secretary Andy Burnham on tackling recession in the high street with councils, business leaders, landlords and town centre managers. The Government is also announcing new measures and up to £3million to help communities find creative ways to reduce the negative impact empty shops have on the high street - vital for town centre and business confidence. The new provisions including special planning application waivers, standard interim-use leases, and temporarily leasing shops to councils will allow empty shops to get makeovers for use as cultural, community or learning services. The innovative new grants scheme in Rotherham, which is helping to attract independent retailers into the town centre is used as an example. The initiative, funded by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, is part of a drive to improve the range of shops and reduce the number of empty units in the town. It will provide shopkeepers with up to 50% of the rental costs in year one and 25% in year two, as well as support towards shopfitting costs. Over ten enquiries were made in the first week of the scheme being launched. Hazel Blears said: "Town centres are the heartbeat of every community and businesses are the foundation so it is vital that they remain vibrant places for people to meet and shop throughout the downturn. "Empty shops can be eyesores or crime magnets. Our ideas for reviving town centres will give communities the know how to temporarily transform vacant premises into something innovative for the community - a social enterprise, a showroom for local artists or an information centre - and stop the high street being boarded up. "Our town centre first planning rules and business rate deferments are also helping small businesses in more direct ways during this difficult time."
Rotherham Town Centre website

Image: Town Centre Management Update Newsletter


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