A GOVERNMENT minister has urged town centres across the country to look to a North-East town for inspiration when bidding for cash from the new Future High Streets fund.

Northern Powerhouse Minister, Jake Berry MP, visited Stockton High Street this week following the Government’s launch of the £675m fund on Boxing Day.

He is the latest in a string of national figures to come and see the ongoing changes to the High Street at a time of unprecedented changes in retail.

Mr Berry spoke to traders in Fountain Shopping Mall, where entrepreneurs are offered low cost space to test their retail ideas and met representatives of Stockton BID.

He also met independent traders in town and learnt of Stockton Borough Council’s year-round events programme and ongoing work to restore the Globe.

“It is amazing to see the redevelopment and investment that’s been led by the council,” he said.

“High streets are changing as more people shop online but we are determined to see high streets remain at the heart of the community.

“I’m hoping that high streets up and down the country look at some of the ideas that we’ve seen in here in Stockton about incorporating events and creating spaces for entrepreneurs to go into.

“I think Stockton is leading the way. High streets up and down the country should follow.”

Council leader Cllr Bob Cook, said: “We were delighted to welcome the minister, especially as it’s only a few weeks since we agreed to step in and take control of key sites and assets in our town centres as and when such opportunities arise.

“We believe in our town centres and are determined to support all of them – it’s not just about Stockton, it’s about Yarm, Thornaby, Billingham, Norton and Ingleby Barwick too.

“We are of course, heartened by the Minister’s comments – they are another national endorsement."