high street

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Funds would go towards transforming disused historic buildings into shops, houses and community centres

Retailers have dismissed a new wave of government money targeted at reviving historic high streets as “paling” alongside the burden placed on them by business rates.

Culture secretary Nicky Morgan announced £95m for 69 town centre high streets across England at the weekend.

The biggest tranche, £21.1m, will go to high streets in the Midlands and the smallest, £7m, to the east of England.

Blackpool, Lancashire; Leeds, West Yorkshire; Coventry, West Midlands; King’s Lynn, Norfolk; Poole, Dorset; and Harlesden, north-west London, are among the recipients targeted.

The government described the cash infusion as “the biggest-ever single investment by government in the UK’s built heritage”.

Projects across the country would transform disused historic buildings into shops, houses and community centres, and funding would help traditional businesses adapt to better compete with online outlets.

“While we welcome additional money for the high streets, the announcement of £95m to 69 towns pales in comparison to the £30bn burden that business rates place on our high streets - 25% of which is paid by retailers,” said Dominic Curran, property policy advisor at the British Retail Consortium.

Reforming the “broken” business rates system is where government must focus its efforts, he said.

Morgan, however, said the money would “breathe new life” into high streets.

The funding would be used to complete essential repair works in historic buildings, and reveal and restore hidden and forgotten features; stimulate commercial investment by demonstrating how historic sites could be successfully repurposed; help reposition historic buildings as community hubs; and boost training in heritage skills such as stonemasonry and conservation.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the funding was part of the £3.6bn committed to helping towns across the country.

Duncan Wilson, CEO of Historic England, said: “Through physical improvements and cultural activities, we will work with partners to find new ways to regenerate our high streets. ”