£9m to support town centres recover from the Coronavirus pandemic announced
The Welsh Government has made up to £9 million available to support town centres recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn has announced up to £5.3 million from the Transforming Towns programme will be used to fund adaptions in town centres to support traders and improve public safety in response to coronavirus.
During a visit to Rhyl, Hannah Blythyn said the £5.3m repurposed capital funding from the Transforming Towns programme, will be used to fund adaptions in town centres to facilitate trading and public safety in response to Coronavirus. This will include but not limited to; outdoor awnings, outdoor tables and chairs, outdoor heating, outdoor screening, bollards, planters, small green infrastructure schemes, electricity supply and lighting to outdoor trading spaces and the temporary use of vacant buildings and the establishment of local markets.
During the visit the Deputy Minister saw first-hand how Welsh Government funds will be used to deliver the Greening Rhyl infrastructure schemes and to improve safety and conditions including suspending parking to increase space for pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distancing and enhance sustainable and active travel. Rhyl is already benefitting from significant Welsh Government investment including funding for the nearly completed refurbishment of the former Costigans to provide high quality business accommodation.
The £5.3m fund will complement other support targeting town centre recovery including:
- A new allocation of £3.7m of Valleys taskforce funding to enhance small town centres in the Valleys region with a focus on enabling communities to work closer to home within town centres through co-working spaces and sustainable and active travel elements
- £15.4 million Local Sustainable Transport fund to provide better active and sustainable travel infrastructure to make it safer and easier for people to get around their local town;
- Funding to support Business Improvement Districts’ running costs for three months.
Announcing the new fund during a visit to Rhyl, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said:
“We all know that town centres are facing huge challenges in light of Covid-19 but I am committed to ensuring Welsh town centres not only survive but thrive. Investing in our town centres is as relevant as ever but as we do not yet know the longer term impact Coronavirus will have on our town centres, it is vital any short term actions have a lasting impact and enhance the look and feel of our town centres.
This is why I’m announcing that £5.3 million will be available during the remainder of 2020-21 to fund adaptations in town centres, which will facilitate trading and public safety in response to Coronavirus. This will include things like outdoor tables and chairs, awnings and planters to ensure that areas are segregated and safe and that business can operate under current social distancing requirements. These actions will provide a sense of wellbeing, safety and confidence to encourage people to return to the high street.
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport and Chair of the Valleys Taskforce, Lee Waters said:
“The £3.7m Valleys Taskforce Funding places an important focus on enabling communities in the region to work closer to home within town centres through co-working spaces and sustainable and active travel improvements.
“This will be crucial in supporting our smaller town centre high streets as well as building our foundational economy.
“There is no denying the coronavirus pandemic has placed unprecedented pressures and challenges on our economic outlook, but it has also given us an opportunity to re-imagine how we want to not just recover, but build back better. Today’s announcement will be key to that and help ensure our towns survive and thrive long into the future.”
The Leader of Denbighshire Council, Hugh Evans said:
The Leader of Denbighshire County Council, Cllr Hugh Evans OBE, said: “I welcome this funding announcement from the Welsh Government. This support will help town centres across Wales as the recovery from coronavirus continues.
“All towns in Denbighshire are struggling during this time and supporting town centres and businesses remains a priority for the Council.
“Our plans for the recovery phase are very much in line with creating greener, cleaner and more connected town centres while supporting businesses and ensuring the safety of the public.”
Ben Cottam, Head of External Affairs at FSB Wales and member of the Ministerial Town Centre Action Group said:
“FSB is very pleased to see that Welsh Government in creating this fund, has recognised the challenges faced by town centre businesses, particularly as they grappled with issues around the current pandemic and we very much welcome the fund. In our recent report ‘Open for Business’ we identified not only some of these challenges but also some of the opportunities to overcome them and this fund provides the chance to make some of those opportunities a reality across our communities.
It’s important that this fund is supported by businesses joining with community partners and the public sector locally to identify how a collaborative approach can help town centres survive this pandemic and plot a course beyond it, recognising the long-term trends which are shaping our towns. This fund can be a catalyst for some of those conversations and partnerships locally.”
The announcement comes the day before the second meeting of the Ministerial Town Centre Action Group. The group, set up by the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government aims determine how best to use existing funds and prioritise further actions and resources to bolster town centres in the short and long term.
Notes to editors
The £90m Transforming Towns fund, announced in January, set out a package of support for town centres building on the £800 million investment in town centres by Welsh Government since 2014.
This investment is delivering:
- Major capital projects which are repurposing empty property and land in town centres across Wales.
- Additional £10m loan funding to tackle empty and underutilised properties in town centres, which has just been opened for applications.
- £15.2 million and industry leading expertise for local authorities to address the issue of empty and neglected properties that blight our high streets.
- Green infrastructure schemes worth £9 million across Wales which will make town centres greener, more attractive and safer.
- Support for our Coastal Towns and Communities through the Coastal Communities Fund.
- funding for local authorities to introduce innovative local initiatives to boost town centres – these include a focus on marketing and branding (including shop local campaigns), masterplanning, embracing digital and tackling empty properties.