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The National Planning Policy Framework sets out clear guidance to councils about ensuring town centres are at the heart of their communities, and they should pursue policies to support town centre viability. It makes clear that parking charges should not undermine the vitality of town centres, and applies a strong sequential and impact test for unplanned out of centre development.
“Regeneration to enable growth: A toolkit supporting community-led regeneration” was published in January 2012, and describes how we have put local partners in the lead, providing them with a wide toolkit of powers, flexibilities, options and incentives to help them drive the regeneration of their area, strengthen their local economy, and improve their opportunities.
In July, we published “Re-imagining urban spaces to help revitalise our high streets” aimed at anyone working to improve their high street, town centre or retail area. It is full of case studies describing the many different ways in which under-utilised assets can be used imaginatively to support high streets and town centres—increasing high street vitality, attracting footfall and boosting local economies.
In March this year, the High Street Innovation Fund allocated £100,000 to 100 local authorities across England which encouraged a focus on bringing empty shops back into use. Local areas also have the opportunity to apply for the £1 million Future High Street X-Fund that will reward those who have demonstrated the greatest improvement in their high street.
Government published its response to the Portas review of the High Street “High Streets at the heart of our communities” which encourages local authorities to be the leaders on, and drivers of economic growth and high street improvement, highlighting their new powers to introduce and fund local business rates discounts.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is funding 24 Portas pilot town teams with each of them receiving up to £100,000 to implement their plans to improve their local high streets and town centres. We will use the experience of the pilot towns to create a toolkit to support community-led regeneration.
We have recently invited those 392 town teams that were not selected to be Portas pilots to register as town team partners and receive £10,000 each. They will also be provided with advice, and supported by the Association of Town Centre Management.