Backing a number of fledgling traders, creating ‘pop up shops’ and dressing the windows of empty shops are among the ideas for a £100,000 pot of cash earmarked for Preston’s high street.
The money was given to the city’s council last April as part of the High Street Innovation Fund is still yet to be spent despite its shopping heartland suffering one of its toughest trading periods in the past 12 months.
It has been working alongside local retailers, landlords and city centre businesses to find the best way to spend the cash.
The city’s leading trade group, the Preston Business Improvement District (BID), has called on the Town Hall to get the cash into action as soon as possible.
Council leader Peter Rankin said: “We are aware that we only have one opportunity to spend this money and we are carefully considering a number of exciting options along with the BID, Preston Empty Property Forum and other partners.
“We see reducing the number of empty shops in the city as a priority and we are working with the university to dress windows and potentially open pop-up shops.
“A longer term option being considered, building on the legacy of the Guild, is to find Guild merchants of the future with a competition aimed at new and fledgling businesses that are ready to go but would benefit from grant funding and business support.”
He added there would be further delays in implementing the plans with a report on the cash still being written up by council officers.
A decision will then be taken by the council’s cabinet on how the money will be spent.
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce which runs the BID, said it was working with the council to use the money to bring empty city centre properties back into use.
She said: “We hope a decision is imminent as to how and when the money is to be spent.
“These are difficult and challenging times for our city centre and we want to see the money spent for its allocated purpose – getting our local retailers and property owners to work together to bring more prosperity into our city”
In April, then-housing minister Grant Shapps said the £10m cash pot, handed out to authorities across the country, said he wanted to see ‘town teams’ using the money creatively.
He said: “I want to see people coming together to turn their creative ideas into reality to ensure their high streets thrive long into the future.”