Measures to support a safe and successful reopening of our treasured high streets and seaside resorts ahead of a great summer were announced today (20 March 2021) by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick.
As the nation looks forward to life beginning to return to normal, with people making plans for domestic holidays and days out with friends, the Communities Secretary announced a comprehensive package of support to help kickstart local economies and businesses and give people reassurance they can shop and socialise safely.
A new £56 million Welcome Back Fund will help councils boost tourism, improve green spaces and provide more outdoor seating areas, markets, and food stall pop-ups – giving people safer options to reunite with friends and relatives.
Part of this funding will be allocated specifically to support coastal areas, with funding going to all coastal resorts across England to safely welcome holidaymakers in the coming months.
The funding can also be used by councils to:
- Boost the look and feel of their high streets by investing in street planting, parks, green spaces, and seating areas to make high streets as beautiful and welcoming as possible
- Run publicity campaigns and prepare to hold events like street markets and festivals to support local businesses
- Install signage and floor markings to encourage social distancing and safety
- Improve high streets and town centres by planting flowers or removing graffiti
Mr Jenrick has also today announced the first 70 councils who will benefit from targeted, hands-on support from the government’s High Streets Task Force, an elite team of high street experts who will advise them on how to adapt to meet changing consumer demands so they can thrive in the years ahead.
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:
“As we move to the next stage on the roadmap out of lockdown we are all looking forward to being reunited with friends and family outdoors and making a safe and happy return to our favourite shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants.
“Our Welcome Back Fund gives every city, town, and high street support to prepare for a great summer. This funding will help councils and businesses to welcome shoppers, diners, and tourists back safely.
“As soon as the roadmap allows, we need to get behind our local businesses and enjoy all that this country has to offer and that we’ve been missing so much.
“I’m allowing every pub in the country to erect a marquee in their garden for the whole summer as a one-off power to support our locals.”
To make sure that businesses can make the most of the summer, businesses such as pubs and restaurants, including where these premises are in listed buildings, will be allowed to use their land more flexibly to set up marquees and provide more outdoor space for diners as restrictions ease, allowing them to serve more customers and recover from the effects of the pandemic.
They can be kept up for the whole summer rather than the 28 days currently permitted.
In another major boost for the high street, the government has published its response to the Parking Code Framework which will curb unfair tickets and tackle cowboy parking firms through a new, simplified appeals process. Caps on private parking fines for millions of motorists are also set to be introduced. This will give drivers more confidence in heading into town knowing they won’t be unfairly penalised by rogue operators.
Support for the High Street
The measures announced today are just some of the ways the government is supporting the retail and hospitality sector including:
- £350 million from the Future High Streets Fund to be invested in 72 areas across England to renew and reshape town centres – making them a more attractive place to live, work and visit.
- Protections from the threat of eviction for businesses unable to pay their rent have been extended until the end of June 2021, helping businesses get back on their feet as restrictions lift across England.
- The High Street Homes Permitted Development Rights will make it easier for disused buildings to be repurposed and provide housing.
- Providing restaurants, pubs, and cafes with the freedom to offer takeaway services; and making it easier for businesses and communities to host markets and stalls so customers can be served safely.
- The provision of public toilets is also being reviewed to ensure that there are appropriate facilities for visitors to town centres.
- A generous package of support to businesses and communities, with over £35 billion in financial support since the start of the pandemic.
- Through the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, the £220 million Community Renewal Fund and the £3.6 billion Towns Fund the government is investing in long-term infrastructure projects to level up our towns and rural areas and ensure the vitality of our town centres for years to come.
These measures are part of unprecedented wider support government is providing to communities and businesses, to protect jobs, support the most vulnerable and ensure no one is left behind as we continue to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and begin to build back better.
European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) has been used to support the Welcome Back Fund.