Worcester’s MP Robin Walker has welcomed the announcement of an £18 million investment in regeneration for the city centre as a timely boost for the High Street. Coming hot on the heals of new funding for the Arches project, this additional funding will allow Worcester city council to purchase sites and redevelop them for cultural, commercial and residential use in an area between the Corn Market and Angel Place. In particular it will enable the reopening of the long-neglected Scala theatre providing Worcester with a major cultural boost and allowing for the Worcester Live theatre group to move from their site at the Swan to a better connected city centre location. The regeneration will also put paid to one of Worcester’s best known eyesores enabling the transformation of the former cooperative building on the corner of the Corn market and improving a key gateway to the city centre.

Robin has lobbied for Worcester to be included in the Future High Streets fund process and has consistently supported Worcester city council’s bid for the Future High Streets fund and whilst the bid itself has been managed by the City Council, he has written in support of it to both the Treasury and the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The fact that Worcester’s bid is amongst the top ten nationwide reflects the quality of the proposals in it and bodes well for its separate bid for the Stronger Towns Fund, for which Robin is serving on the board.

In a major boost for local high streets, up to £830 million from the Future High Streets Fund will be invested in 72 areas across England, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced today (26 December). The funding will help these areas transform their high streets into vibrant hubs for future generations and to protect and create thousands of jobs.

In a key milestone for the Government’s levelling up agenda, this investment will help areas to recover from the pandemic while also driving long term growth. It will enable the delivery of ambitious regeneration plans, drawn up by places, and fund new local projects such as improvements to transport infrastructure, new homes and the transformation of underused spaces.

The funding will also help to protect and create thousands of jobs in a range of industries, including a £17.9 million to boost Worcester town centre by renovating the Scala Theatre and Corn Exchange, transforming underused space to create new homes for first time buyers and improving connectivity.

This funding is part of wider support we’re providing to communities and businesses, to protect jobs, support the most vulnerable and ensure no one is left behind as we tackle the Covid-19 pandemic head on.

Robin Walker, Worcester’s MP said:

“After such a tough year for our High Street it is wonderful news that Worcester is near the top of the list for support from the Government. Having served on the BIS committee’s inquiry into the future of high streets I knew that one of the keys to their future success is providing a better customer experience. By increasing footfall in the city centre and regenerating an area that provides a link between the riverside and the High Street, this plan can provide a long term uplift to our local economy.”

“”I know that Worcester City Council’s bid create a cultural quarter on the edge of the High Street and close to Foregate Street Station was achieving this. I am delighted that Worcester’s success in this competitive process makes us one of the first places to benefit from this Government’s pledge to build back better. This is a great Christmas present to Worcester, it’s high street and it’s cultural offer and it could hardly be more timely.”

Announcing the successful bids, Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: 

“The year ahead will be a big one for the high street as it seeks to recover, adapt and evolve as a result of the pandemic. Today’s £830 million investment from the Future High Streets Fund is one of many ways the Government is working to help our much-loved town centres get through this and prosper into the future.

“The role of high street has always evolved. We want to support that change and make sure that they are the beating heart of their local community – with high quality housing and leisure in addition to shops and restaurants.

“This investment will help us build back better and make town centres a more attractive place to live, work and visit.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said:

“We are supporting our high streets to get through this pandemic through business grants, paying people’s wages and tax deferrals.

“The Future High Streets Fund will help areas bounce back through regeneration projects that level up opportunities and create jobs right across the country.”

The Future High Streets Fund was launched in December 2018 and is a key part of this Government’s plan to renew and reshape town centres – making them a more attractive place to live, work and visit. £107 million of the Future High Streets Fund has been allocated to DCMS to support the regeneration of heritage high streets.

The Future High Streets Fund is just one of the ways the government is supporting the retail and hospitality sector. During the pandemic, we made it easier for areas to adapt to the challenges they faced. This included making it easier to demolish and rebuild unused buildings to create homes with our High Street Homes Permitted Development Rights; 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.

In May we launched a fund to help councils reopen high streets safely and we recently announced that retailers will be able to extend their opening hours over the festive period to help keep shoppers and staff safe.

This month we extended protections from the threat of eviction for businesses unable to pay their rent until March 2021, taking the duration of these measures to one year.

Our recent proposals for the new Parking Code of Practice will support shoppers visiting their local high street by introducing a tiered approach to private car parking fines and ensuring a fair appeals process.

We are also reviewing the provision of public toilets to ensure that there are appropriate facilities for visitors to town centres.