Bold Street, Liverpool

Small to medium-sized high street businesses are to benefit from a £50m fund to help them reopen safely in the wake of the pandemic.

The cash from the European Regional Development Fund will go to councils to spend on practical measures such as new street signs and markings, as well as barriers to control pedestrian flow near business premises.

Under guidance published last week and updated at the weekend, the spending is to go on steps to help SMEs begin trading again safely.

Along with measures to make spaces next to businesses safer, the spending can also be on local marketing campaigns highlighting the changes to the public.

The funding covers spending from 1 June, the start date for the government’s planned phased reopening of non-essential retail. The measures should extend to the end of March 2021.

The BRC said it was expecting more detail in the coming days over how the funding would be used to improve safety in public spaces.

As he announced the funding, high streets minister Simon Clarke said: “As we begin to slowly return to normality, the reopening 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 that shows they are ready for the challenges ahead.

“That’s why we are providing an extra £50m for councils to support a range of safety measures that will help get these businesses back on track and ensure people can enjoy their time visiting their local high streets safely again.”