£100K fund to help North Somerset shopkeepers

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By Carol_Deacon | Monday, January 28, 2013, 14:09

Hot on the heels of a British Retail Consortium report which says High Street sales are stagnating and more than one in 10 shops in the UK's town centres were empty in October comes a much needed boost from the government.

North Somerset Council has been awarded £100,000 from central Government as part of an initiative to revitalise 'high streets' and tackle the challenge of empty retail properties. 

Businesses now have until Monday, March 11, to apply for a grant from the High Street Innovation Fund. 

In 2011 Mary Portas undertook a review into the state of the country's high streets and town centres. 

In 2012 Nailsea undertook a similar review into its town centre.

The conclusions were that 'high streets' should become multi-functional and social places, 'where shopping is just one small part of a rich mix of activities'. 

The report also said that high streets should 'be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again'. 

This High Street Innovation Fund will be available across North Somerset for 'start-ups', existing businesses and community organisations who have creative and innovative ideas to improve their businesses and the vitality and viability of their town. 

Small grants, up to a maximum of £3,000, are available for start ups and existing businesses. 

For those that have a greater capacity to deliver a more sizeable project, grants up to £10,000 may be awarded. 

The larger grants are designed to encourage groups of businesses, town and parish councils and communities to work together in partnership.

Executive member responsible for economic development Elfan Ap Rees said "This funding is a great opportunity for businesses and communities to either 'start up', experiment with a different way of doing business, or use a vacant retail premise for a new and alternative use. 

"We hope that such projects will help to make the high street look a more attractive and vibrant place to be and breathe new life into certain areas of our towns."

North Somerset Council is encouraging local businesses and community groups to seize this opportunity at a time when grants are scarce and trading conditions remain difficult.

For further information on the criteria, guidance notes and an application form visit www.innorthsomerset.co.uk/funding or ring 01934 426341 or e-mail business@n-somerset.gov.uk.

The deadline for applications is 9am. 

A further round of applications may be announced should any funds remain unallocated.

British Retail Consortium director general Helen Dickinson said: "The fact that total employment edged up during this quarter, driven by part-time workers, is a shaft of light against an otherwise challenging backdrop. 

"It shows that, despite relentlessly tough times, retailers are continuing to invest in people and support job creation as much as they can.

"But the record drop in store numbers is stark evidence that this investment should not be taken for granted. 

"We're by no means out of the woods yet - given the administrations of recent weeks, the next quarter's figures are likely to make difficult reading.

"Half our sample intend to decrease staffing levels during the first quarter of this year and only four per cent plan to increase them. 

"This trend is to be expected at this time of year due to reductions in temporary seasonal staff, but the rate is higher compared with last year and further highlights testing times still to come.

"Supporting retail sector investment and employment is essential to economic recovery. 

"The Government can help by freezing business rates in April."

      

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