A NEW £2.4 million fund for councils in the North-East to support their local high streets in getting safely back to business has been announced today by High Streets Minister Simon Clarke.

To prepare for the reopening of non-essential retail when the scientific advice allows, the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund will help councils in England introduce a range of safety measures in a move to kick-start local economies, get people back to work and customers back to the shops.

It will also support a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings and temporary barriers. This will help businesses get ready for when they can begin trading safely, not only in high streets and town and city centres, but also in other public spaces like beachfronts and promenades. 

Councils will also be able to use this money to develop local marketing campaigns to explain the changes to the public and reassure them that their high streets and other commercial areas are safe. 

Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: “As we begin to slowly return to normality, the re-opening of our high streets will be key to kick-starting our economic recovery.

“Levelling up the regions and supporting our high streets has always been central to the mission of this Government.

“Many businesses have already introduced creative ways of trading such as contactless collection or taking orders by instant messaging and this shows that they are ready for the challenges ahead.

“That’s why we are providing an extra £2.4 million for councils across the North East to support a range of safety measures that will help get these businesses back on track and ensure that people can enjoy their time visiting their local high street safely again.”

"This fund marks the next step on our country's roadmap to leave lockdown safely. I hope it will make a real difference to high streets across our area, like Middlesbrough, Guisborough, Skelton and Loftus, when they are able to reopen.

"We want councils to be able to prepare sensible changes like temporary pedestrianisation of some areas, one way systems and widening pavements to create more space - as well as more intensive cleaning. This new money will help make this possible and I'm delighted to have been able to commission it."

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, welcomed the funding. He said: "This will help us step towards a return to normal life on our high streets. Over the course of this lockdown period, the vast majority of people have listened to the rules and in the next stage we need to give them the ability to continue to.

"As the shops slowly starts to reopen over the coming weeks, this extra cash will mean the council can put in place the steps to help people stay safe and keep their distance.

"We want people to be able to start using shops again as soon as it’s confirmed safe, especially our fantastic small businesses who haven’t benefited from an online presence through this difficult period."

It is the Government’s ambition to reopen non-essential retail in a phased way from June 1, subject to the scientific advice. The Government will set out further detail on how and when these can reopen safely shortly.

High streets are critical to the economic recovery of our towns and cities and this new fund builds on longer-term funds already in place to support their revival and boost their economic fortunes including the Future High Streets and Towns Funds.

The funding comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) that the Government is making available to councils to support businesses to re-open safely following guidance published on May 13 to help adapt urban centres and green spaces for social distancing during the pandemic.

The money, totalling £50m in England, will be allocated to councils on a per capita basis and will be ready to spend from June 1, 2020.

The fund is in addition to the £3.2 billion package of support announced for councils to help them deal with the immediate pressures they have said they are facing.