The cash – allocated from the European Regional Development Fund – is intended to help local authorities create a “safe trading environment” for businesses and their customers.
The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund will be funnelled through each of the county’s 14 district and unitary councils, which are being asked to redesign public spaces surrounding retail businesses in order to maintain social distancing and tempt shoppers back to the high street.
Next month will see trading restart in two waves – provided five tests for easing lockdown restrictions are being met at the time. Car showrooms and open-air markets can return to business on 1st June, with other non-essential shops – such as clothing retailers – following suit a fortnight later.
At least some of the proposed solutions are likely to involve temporary changes to roads and pavements. But in the Lancashire County Council area, while the extra cash has been handed to district authorities, it is County Hall which makes decisions about highways.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that plans are already being made for the changes which could characterise the next phase of Lancashire’s fight against coronavirus.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said that the emergency response to the virus also incorporated a recovery effort aimed at identifying “what we need to do as schools, workplaces and businesses start to reopen”.
“This includes looking at measures to support social distancing in busy pedestrian areas and ensure our town and city centre economies can function as safely as possible,” he added.
The rules surrounding use of the money state that it should not fund any permanent changes to the public realm – with developments intended to last no longer than twelve months or until social distancing is no longer required.
The cash – part of a £50m pot being issued to councils across the country – can also go towards information campaigns targeting both businesses and the public with details of the measures being put in place to protect them. However, the fund cannot be used to pay for measures implemented by individual businesses.
LANCASHIRE’S HIGH STREET CASH SPLIT
The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund has been allocated based on population size:
Blackburn with Darwen £131,610
Ribble Valley £53,771
South Ribble £97,965
West Lancashire £100,989
High Streets Minister Simon Clarke MP said:
“As we begin to slowly return to normality, the re-opening 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 shows that they are ready for the challenges ahead.
“That’s why we are providing an extra £50 million for councils 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.”