STOCKTON and Yarm are in the running for a slice of a national fund set up to transform high streets.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council is preparing expressions of interest in the £675million Future High Streets Fund on behalf of both towns.
The move comes after the Government confirmed it will welcome funding bids from two of the Borough’s town centres.
And the Council is also in discussions with the owners of Billingham and Thornaby town centres about improvements there.
The Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing, Councillor Nigel Cooke, said: “We were heartened that Northern Powerhouse Minister, Jake Berry MP, not only chose to visit Stockton High Street last month after the launch of the fund, but also urged bidders to look to Stockton for inspiration.
“It was yet another national endorsement of our long-term plan to help our town centres adapt to changes to shopping habits and the challenges posed by the departure of several big name shops.
“But even before the Future High Streets Fund was launched, we announced our own plans to step in and help town centres across the Borough and approved up to £30million of borrowing to provide this support.
“What this has done is put us in a very strong position to bid to the Future High Streets Fund because councils have to show that they are in a position to match fund any sum they receive from it.
“Our bid will to this particular funding pot will be for Stockton and Yarm but we are also in separate discussions with the owners of Billingham and Thornaby town centres and actively working on interventions in Norton and Ingleby Barwick too.
“In Yarm, we’ve been working closely with Yarm Business Forum to attract people to the town and they’ve recently told us the changes we’ve made to parking in the High Street are working very well and that traffic is flowing much more freely now.
“We’re also in negotiations with landowners about potential sites for long stay parking but funding from the Future High Street Fund would allow us to pursue additional options too and to explore things like feature lighting and improved access.
“So, we go into the bidding process with high hopes that we will secure Government funding to support our ambitious plans to bring about positive change in all of the Borough’s town centres.”
The Government is urging towns and cities across the country to bid for a share of the £675million fund ‘to transform local high streets into modern vibrant community hubs’.
Phase 1 expressions of interest are due in in March and the Government will assess them before announcing which have made it through to Phase 2 this the summer.