Fund to boost Town centres

Friday March 1st 2019

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A £50 million fund to help boost town centres has been launched.

The Town Centre Fund, which has been set up in partnership with COSLA, is supporting councils to ensure their high streets are more diverse, sustainable and successful in the face of changing and evolving retail patterns.

It will be for local authorities to allocate this fund against the themes of the Town Centre Action Plan.

The money will fund a wide range of investments which will make town centres more vibrant, enterprising, and accessible.

This could include the re-purposing of empty buildings for housing or social and community enterprises.

Speaking as he announced the launch of the fund, Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said:

“Town centres are facing challenges across Scotland in adapting to a changing retail climate, and it is important that we help them to diversify and adjust to overcome these challenges.

“I want to make sure we can keep life in our high streets, and ensure they continue to be thriving places for communities to live, work and enjoy.

“This £50 million fund will enable local authorities to stimulate and support a wide range of investments which will encourage town centres to diversify and flourish, and create an increase in footfall through local improvements and partnerships.

“It is part of a wider boost to the economy through providing more than £5 billion of capital investment to grow and modernise Scotland’s infrastructure, and a wider package of support to businesses, including maintaining a competitive business rates package and providing the most generous package of non-domestic rates reliefs anywhere in the UK.”

Reaction has been positive to the launch of the fund.

Councillor Steven Heddle, COSLA’s Environment and Economy Spokesperson said: “Local Economic Development drives so much of the other vital things that Councils do on behalf of our Communities. This was a message we promoted as part of our essential services campaign ahead of this year’s budget. We were clear that inclusive growth must be supported through investment in Local Government.

“We welcome today’s announcement of the £50 million for investment in our towns and we will continue to work with Scottish Government on our shared priority of Inclusive Growth and growing Scotland’s Economy.”

Midlothian Council Leader Councillor Derek Milligan welcomed news of the funding. He added: “We await the details of conditions attached to how the resources can be used. Once these are known, we will consider the next steps.”

Christine Grahame MSP said:

“This funding announcement can help transform town centres in Midlothian, such as Penicuik, Gorebridge and Newtongrange.

“The health of our town centres is vital to the economic and cultural life of our communities – and this new investment can make a real difference.

“Midlothian Council must now ensure that the £910,000 is spent wisely and ensure our local town centres reap the benefits of this investment.

“The SNP’s Town Centre Fund is part of a wider package of business support measures that will help drive economic activity in Midlothian, helping give our local high streets a welcome boost.”

Garry Clark, Development Manager – East of Scotland, Federation of Small Businesses said

“The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomes this new resource directed at town centres in Midlothian. We believe that this new money should be focussed where it is most needed in order to maximise the local impact. In addition, it should prioritise diversification in Midlothian, encouraging non-retail businesses and employers into our local town centres.”

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