Government is being asked to make Gloucestershire one of five places to pilot a Budget scheme to regenerate the county’s High Streets.
The call comes from Dr Diane Savory, OBE, chairman of Gloucestershire’s local enterprise partnership, gfirst LEP.
She said: ”I am writing to government to tell them that Gloucestershire is already ahead of the game in the battle to regenerate our High Streets and I want the county to be one of their five pilot areas in the country for these plans.”
The plans are part of the Chancellor’s £675 million Future High Streets Fund announced in the Budget to invest in town centre infrastructure to include increased access to High Streets and supporting redevelopment around them.
An important facet of these plans is what the government is calling an “Open Doors” pilot in five town centres to bring empty properties back into use by matching landlords of vacant premises with local community groups looking for space.
The plans also include the piloting of a register of empty commercial properties.
Diane Savory is former chief operating officer of Supergroup and an acknowledged expert on the future of high street retailing.
She added: ”I am going to thank ministers for what they are now doing with these new Budget announcements on the High Street but tell them there is so much more to be done.
“I think Gloucestershire should be chosen as one of the five key areas in the country due to all the work we are currently doing to develop a new approach to encourage shopping and help shops in the county to survive.”
Diane Savory believes that shop landlords must also play their part in helping the High Streets to develop and survive.
“Landlords are now beginning to smell the coffee,” she commented.
“They have always been able to have a certain dominance over buildings. But they are now realising they are not getting the return against their investment if they have got empty units.
“So, the landlords on the High Street have to change too. It really is a change for them to realise they cannot continue in the way they have done before.
“I think there is a slight onus on landlords to start looking at their own square footage to develop some entrepreneurial ideas on lease and rental terms to encourage businesses to set up.
“To open a shop anyway you need a certain amount of capital expenditure because you have to do a shopfit, but landlords could look at what we call key money.”
*Gloucestershire is rapidly developing innovative solutions to the challenges of the changing face of the High Street.
The latest development is the launching in Gloucester of the UK Digital Retail Innovation Centre - the national centre testing and developing solutions faced through the migration of the High Street.
The centre is funded by gFirst LEP and being delivered by Marketing Gloucester.