Make a bid to spruce up area’s high streets

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High street businesses in Chronicle country’s market towns are being urged to apply for a share of £1million to make improvements to shop fronts.

Applications for funding can be made by local businesses through the High Street Improvement Scheme, launched this week by Central Bedfordshire Council with the aim of revitalising town centres through replacing or renovating high street shop fronts and tackling vacant retail units.

​To be delivered in partnership with town councils, the scheme offers funding to support businesses to modernise their shop fronts, upper floors and forecourts, while preserving and enhancing the character of individual buildings, as well as expert advice on creating new branding for signage.

​Applications for the grants will be received in three rounds with deadlines in September, November and February. Successful applicants will receive a grant of 60% of the total cost of the work to carry out improvements, with the remaining 40% to be sourced from private sector and other public sector sources.

​Funding will be available to independent businesses and landlords with properties in Central Bedfordshire’s market towns including Arlesey, Biggleswade, Potton, Sandy, Shefford and Stotfold.

​Cllr Nigel Young, Central Bedfordshire Council Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “The High Street Improvement Scheme is an exciting new initiative that provides significant opportunities to improve our market towns at a time when very few other authorities are investing in town centres. By setting aside £1million for this scheme, we have responded to the needs of town councils and local businesses, many of whom wish to enhance their high streets and improve the shopping experience in their market towns.

​“Clean and well-presented buildings, including shops, make an area more welcoming, improve its image, contribute towards a stronger sense of identity and can often encourage a greater number of shopping visits.

“We are pleased to be working in partnership with town councils to help these important retail locations to thrive and grow and further contribute to making Central Bedfordshire and great place to live and work.”

​The scheme is part of the Market Town Regeneration Fund, where Central Bedfordshire Council approved bids for initiatives in eight towns. including Potton, Sandy and Shefford, totalling a fund investment of approximately £2.5 million and levering nearly £3 million in match funding from the town councils and local partners.

The High Street Improvement Scheme complements these initiatives, which include heritage trails, improved signage, cycling racks and market stalls, and will enhance the vibrancy of town centres, help support economic growth and act as a catalyst for wider on going investment, employment and development in the key market towns and communities across Central Bedfordshire.

For more information about the High Street Improvement Scheme and how to apply, visit the website www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/market-towns.