Central Government Towns Fund

Central Government Towns Fund

This article is not intended as a political post in favour of any party locally or centrally. We merely present the facts where the government’s Town’s Funding went. Towns across the UK are struggling redefining their future. Online shopping, out of town retail parks and 11 years of central government austerity have all taken their toll on town centres. Of course we have had the impact of Covid-19 on top of all that. The Town’s Fund was a central government initiative helping to fund selected towns in their redevelopment. It appears to have had some interesting outcomes. Although Wigan were not recipients, it does illustrate we are not alone in our problems. Read on if you want to find out what the Government’s Town’s Funding is and who has won what. In addition to the Town’s Fund is the High Street Fund, in which Wigan has been more successful.

By the way, did you know that there are over 1,000 towns and more than 6,000 high streets in England?

What is the Central Government Towns Fund?

A Quiet Friday Afternoon in Market Place

In summary, it is a £3.6 billion fund. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) announced it in July 2019. Councils across the UK can for a portion of it in order to help with town and high street regeneration. It actually comprises of two distinct funds below;

  • Town Deals – aiming to drive the economic regeneration of towns to deliver long term economic and productivity growth. In September 2019, 101 towns in England won Town Deals.
  • Future High Streets Fund – aiming to renew and reshape town centres and high streets. In December 2020, 72 places in England had been successful in funding applications.

What are the funds for?

Well as with many things government based, the definitions overlap and lack clarity. Their own definitions are;

  • The Town Deals interventions are focused specifically on urban regeneration, planning and land use, skills and enterprise infrastructure, transport and digital connectivity.
  • The Future High Streets Fund interventions are focused on urban regeneration, planning and land use and transport.

Clearly there is an overlap there. Hopefully the difference is clearer at the detailed level. Still holding your breath?

Central Government Towns Fund – Town Deals Successful Applicants

Well Wigan did not receive any of the Town Deals funding. It looks as if Wigan did not make any bid for this portion of the funds. Please feel free to inform the site otherwise if you know different, as we encourage facts. However the end result was that Wigan did not win any funding. Other northern towns including Southport, Bolton, Warrington and Blackpool won significant funding too. For a full list of all winning funds and the amounts please check here.

There was a strict set of guidelines produced to be used in the bids. Yet it would appear from various documented sources that some subjective judgement was made in deciding which town got what. We do know that it is on public record that the vast majority went to conservative run councils. Whether that is a coincidence, who knows.

Future High Streets Fund

Wigan has progressed better with the application for the Future High Streets Fund. Robert Jenrick, the previous Communities Secretary to Gove announced in May 2021 that Wigan town centre would receive £16,633,692 from the High Streets Fund.

Please see here for a full list of successful bids. In Wigan’s case the award will go towards the £130 million redevelopment of the Galleries.

There may be a useful angle here for our hard working friends at Save our Town Centre. Part of both funding pools is a mechanism to monitor value for money, during as well as after delivery. The first element of the monitoring process requires our council to provide monitoring data. The council must deliver a 6 monthly and annual report for the duration of the development. The purpose is to enable learning and to help manage risk and uncertainty. As with many things local and central government, the detail is lacking. Yet it may provide some opportunity for limited influence? We will keep you posted. Of course feel free to follow or make suggestions through the Save our Town Centre Facebook Page.

Of course you can also have your influence at the local elections in May.

Wigan King Street Funding

The Government have also funded Wigan with £1,271,177 through the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The money is designated to breathe new life into the buildings of King Street by 2024. The desired result is to make it an attractive place to visit by residents and visitors. King Street is one part of 10 acre Wigan High Street Heritage Action Zone.

The council intend to do so by reusing and reviving beautiful historic buildings. It includes the Grade II listed Royal Court Theatre. The Council plan to work with partners like Arts in the Mill CIC to engage locals and visitors in a rich array of cultural activity. Okay not every person may be as enthusiastic as each other when it comes to participating with arts. Despite that remember it’s not always a case of the money being spent on arts versus other services such as care. It is a case of the Government awarding the Council for arts related funding versus not giving them anything. Never look a gift horse in the mouth. If it results in the re-use of buildings that need restoration, it has to be something good?

It really provides a catalyst to future use. It may feel awkward no, but as time goes on who knows where it could go.

King Street – What is Happening Now – Heritage & History

You can find out a little more about what is happening in this area on the Old Courts Website Streets Aaprt website. The Wigan Local History and Heritage Society website provides a great glimpse into the glorious past of many of the King Street buildings. Take a look at the lost buildings of king street on their site. It covers the Wigan Brewery, Pubs, Theathres, Churches, The Old Town Hall and a Dispensary.

Central Government Towns Fund – Further Information

Save Our Town Centre Facebook Page through Friends of Wigan Town Centre.

For anybody wanting to explore the background in more detail, you may find the following links helpful;

Towns Fund: further guidance

A documented guide intended to enable towns to finalise their Town Investment Plans and their Town Deals.

Towns Fund monitoring and evaluation strategy

The goverment’s approach to monitoring and evaluating the Towns Fund.

High Streets Fund Documentation

All documents relating to the Future High Streets Fund

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