Shrewsbury and Oswestry set to bid for share of £675m Future High Streets Fund
Shrewsbury and Oswestry could receive a share of the Government’s £675m Future High Streets Fund, with Shropshire Council set to agree to submit funding bids on behalf of both towns.
The Future High Streets Fund was launched in December 2018 to support high streets to adapt, transform and meet the changing expectations and functions of high streets – to help them survive and thrive.
Shropshire is eligible to submit two bids into this first round of funding, and a report to the council’s Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 27 February 2019 recommends that bids are made on behalf of Shrewsbury and Oswestry before the 22 March  deadline.
After a number of towns across the county expressed initial interest in being put forward, a short proposal form was produced based on the criteria set out by the Government. Council officers asked Shropshire’s market towns to return their proposals to the council for consideration by a majority independent panel.
The panel consisted of the Executive Director of Place for Shropshire Council, Director of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership and the Chair of Shropshire Business Board.
Three of Shropshire’s towns submitted proposals: Oswestry, Shrewsbury and Whitchurch. Oswestry and Shrewsbury showed a preference to be considered for the first round of funding, and Whitchurch for the second round.
The panel reviewed and scored the proposals that were submitted and concluded that both the Shrewsbury and Oswestry bids should proceed as first round bids and be worked up in collaboration with the appropriate town councils, local councillors and Business Improvement Districts. The panel supported Whitchurch’s preference to be looked at for the second round of funding in 2020.
Steve Charmley, deputy Leader of Shropshire Council and Cabinet member with responsibility for economic growth, said:
“There is a fantastic opportunity for Shropshire Council to submit two bids to the Future High Streets Fund, and hopefully secure a share of the £675 million that has been allocated to support towns and high streets across the country. The aims of the Fund closely match our own ambitions for supporting our market towns and growing the local economy. This is a great chance to secure what could be a significant – and very welcome – amount of funding to help us achieve our goals.”
To give Shropshire Council the greatest potential for success, it will be important to ensure that both bids meet the eligibility criteria of the fund and are truly transformational in their proposals. This will be done through the preparation of the full bids.
Meanwhile, Shropshire Council officers will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on ‘Our plan for the High Street’ and the emerging information and guidance, and the implications of this for Shropshire and its many market towns.
About the Future High Streets Fund
The objective of the Fund is to renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability.
The Government’s aim is to co-fund projects and places that have already started to formulate a vision for the future of their town centres. They are expecting bids to be in the region of £5 -10 million and not exceeding £25 million, and be co-funded by either public or private sector investment.