The Association of Convenience Stores has welcomed a government initiative designed to regenerate the UK’s hard-hit high streets.

Fifty seven councils are to receive £50,000 each to use empty high street stores “in a creative way” to prevent once bustling streets turning into dead zones.

"We know that the downturn has really hurt high streets in areas of high deprivation across England,” said Communities Secretary John Denham. “These grants will help to transform and re-open empty shops as part of our real help to keep town centres vibrant and combat the recession.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said the move would help keep high streets alive, but said the Government must also consider stringent planning tests on new out-of-town developments.

“In the last year the decline in shops on the high street has been dramatic and this fund is looking to provide a short term fix for the hardest hit,” he said. “But what high streets really need are policies on planning and business rates to support their long term future.”