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Application process opens for £1m high street neighbourhood plan scheme

The applications process for the Government’s £1m 'Future High Street X-Fund', which was announced in the Government’s response to Portas’ High Street review, is now open.  02 Apr 2012

The Neighbourhood teams will be selected against a list of criteria contained in the application form (14-page/100KB PDF), the Government said.

Last week The Government announced new funding packages through a High Street Innovation Fund worth a potential £30m which is focused on bringing empty shops back into use; a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts to help town centres access loans for their set-up costs, and the £1m High Street fund, which will be awarded in a year's time to locations which deliver the most "creative and effective" schemes to revitalise their high streets.

The Government has announced the second round of funding for high street neighbourhood plans and has invited local communities to bid for £1 million to support their plan.

Central to the funding bid should be a "town team", which would be tasked with providing a visionary and strategic operational management structure for their high streets, the Government said.

The announcement is part of the Government's 'Portas-plus' response to the Mary Portas' High Street Review. The response accepted most of Portas' recommendations, however rejected her flagship "exceptional sign off" on proposals for new out-of-town shopping or leisure complexes.

The Portas Review was an independent review into the future of UK high streets by Mary Portas and was published on 13 December 2011. Portas made recommendations on what can be done by Government, local authorities and business to help high streets deliver something new.

The £1m funding is aimed at "revitalising this crucial part of the local economy", said Planning Minister Greg Clark, when he announced the "Portas Pilots Round Two" scheme.

"We accepted the recommendation to “Run a number of High Street Pilots to test proof the concept”, and we expect areas to take forward the recommendation to “put in place a “Town Team” as a central part of their pilot bid," the Government said.

The pilots have been introduced to test the ideas put forward by Mary Portas in her high street review. It is hoped that the pilots will provide an opportunity for local partnerships to develop and share knowledge about the effectiveness of various options for high street improvement.

The Government funding is expected to support twelve pilots, with funding of up to £100,000 for each. This may vary depending on the amount sought by and our assessment of individual bids, the Government said.

The money will be awarded to partnerships in England that demonstrate the "best fit" with the selection criteria and the Government is also looking to provide other, non-financial support for the pilots, it said.

In its response to the Portas Review, the Government included new incentives, funding schemes and measures to reduce bureaucracy, aimed at "rejuvenating the country's rundown high streets".

"High streets are at the heart of their communities and new neighbourhood plans hand power back to communities so they can help shape the future development of this crucial part of their local economy," said Clark. "This £1 million fund will support local people, businesses and councils coming together to provide a really positive contribution to the future vitality and viability of our high streets."

Neighbourhood planning is one of the measures introduced under the Localism Act and is aimed at handing power to local communities (from central Government).

There are more than 200 neighbourhood planning front-runner projects are already trialling the "neighbourhood planning" powers before they are fully rolled out next week. Some frontrunner plans include high streets, such as, Wolverton in Milton Keynes, Sudbury Town, Thame in South Oxfordshire, and Leytonstone.

Communities can bid for the funding via an online application form (14-page/100KB PDF) and applications will be accepted until 30 June 2012.