We want town centres to be great places to live, learn, work and play and to be sources of civic pride, confidence and wellbeing.
At the moment, our town centres are facing challenges in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but I want to do everything we can to make sure they not only survive but thrive.
To support our town centres up to £5.3m will be available during 2020-21 to fund adaptations to make them coronavirus safe. This will include funding for outdoor tables and chairs, awnings and planters to ensure areas can be segregated and that business can operate under current social distancing requirements. The funding will also support the temporary use of vacant buildings and the establishment of local markets. The emphasis will be on ensuring these short-term actions have a lasting impact in terms of enhancing the look and feel of town centres.
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters, has announced a further £3.7m to support and enhance the Transforming Towns offer in the Valleys region. This will further enhance the funding available through the wider Transforming Towns agenda. It will be specifically targeted at smaller town centres in the Valleys region and will focus on responding to the impact of coronavirus, including supporting communities to work closer to home and active travel.
The £5.3m I am announcing has been repurposed from the Transforming Towns programme and builds on our wider response to the pandemic including:
- A new £15.4m local sustainable transport fund to make it safer and easier for people to get around their towns by providing better active and sustainable travel infrastructure. This will help lock-in those positive increases in active travel that we have seen recently for the long-term.
- Extending measures to protect businesses affected by coronavirus from eviction until 30 September. This will ensure no business is forced out of its premises if it misses a rent payment in the next three months.
- A funding package to support Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Wales with their running costs for up to three months to help ensure they can continue, and be at the forefront of recovery efforts in their towns.
- Guidance relating to the safe reopening of our town centres and high streets including specific guidance for the hospitality and retail sectors.
At the start of this year, I set out our Transforming Towns approach with a package of support for town centres worth £90m, building on projected investment of £800m in our towns since 2014.
We will shortly be holding the second meeting of the Ministerial Town Centre Action Group, which I set up to consider how best to use existing funds and prioritise further actions and resources to bolster town centres in the short term and identify and action opportunities to secure their longer-term future. The group is supported by multi-disciplinary regional action groups.
I will provide a further update to Members after summer recess.