The government has announced a £56m funding packages to support a safe reopening of high streets and seaside resorts to help deal with Covid fallout
The Welcome Back Fund was announced by communities secretary Robert Jenrick, with the funding designed to help councils prepare for the safe return of shoppers and tourists, including employing extra staff to keep festivals and events covid secure.
Pubs, restaurants and listed buildings will also be given more flexibility to use their land to help more people meet up and enjoy themselves, including erecting marquees in pub gardens for the whole summer.
The comprehensive package of support will help kickstart local economies and businesses and give people reassurance they can shop and socialise safely.
The new £56m Welcome Back Fund will help councils boost tourism, improve green spaces and provide more outdoor seating areas, markets and food stall pop-ups – giving people more safer options to reunite with friends and relatives.
Part of this funding will be allocated specifically to support coastal areas, with funding going to all coastal resorts across England to safely welcome holiday makers in the coming months.
The funding has been divided up across the country with the east of England set to receive £6.1m, the south east £9.6m and south west £5.5m for example.
The funding can also be used by councils to:
- boost the look and feel of their high streets by investing in street planting, parks, green spaces and seating areas to make high streets as beautiful and welcoming as possible;
- run publicity campaigns and prepare to hold events like street markets and festivals to support local businesses;
- install signage and floor markings to encourage social distancing and safety; and
- improve high streets and town centres by planting flowers or removing graffiti.
Jenrick also announced details of the first 70 councils who will benefit from targeted, hands-on support from the government’s High Streets Task Force, a team of high street experts who will advise them on how to adapt to meet changing consumer demands.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: ‘As we move to the next stage on the roadmap out of lockdown we are all looking forward to being reunited with friends and family outdoors and making a safe and happy return to our favourite shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
‘Our Welcome Back Fund gives every city, town and high street support to prepare for a great summer. This funding will help councils and businesses to welcome shoppers, diners and tourists back safely.
‘As soon as the roadmap allows, we need to get behind our local businesses and enjoy all that this country has to offer and that we’ve been missing so much.
‘I’m allowing every pub in the country to erect a marquee in their garden for the whole summer as a one-off power to support our locals.’
To make sure that businesses can make the most of the summer, businesses such as pubs and restaurants, including where these premises are in listed buildings, will be allowed to use their land more flexibly to set up marquees and provide more outdoor space for diners as restrictions ease, allowing them to serve more customers and recover from the effects of the pandemic.
They can be kept up for the whole summer rather than the 28 days currently permitted.
Support for the High Street
The measures add to current funding already in place for high streets to support the retail and hospitality sector including:
- £350m from the Future High Streets Fund to be invested in 72 areas across England to renew and reshape town centres – making them a more attractive place to live, work and visit;
- protections from the threat of eviction for businesses unable to pay their rent have been extended until the end of June 2021, helping businesses get back on their feet as restrictions lift across England;
- the High Street Homes Permitted Development Rights will make it easier for disused buildings to be repurposed and provide housing;
- 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;
The provision of public toilets is also being reviewed to ensure that there are appropriate facilities for visitors to town centres.
Through the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, the £220m Community Renewal Fund and the £3.6bn Towns Fund the government is investing in long term infrastructure projects to level up towns and rural areas.
These measures are part of unprecedented wider support government is providing to communities and businesses, to protect jobs, support the most vulnerable and ensure no one is left behind as we continue to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and begin to build back better.
European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) has been used to support the Welcome Back Fund.