Council plans to take high street business support to the next level

A report to be presented to Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet members on Thursday 8 July will show how the council’s Pride in Our High Streets (PiOHS) programme has successfully supported our borough town high streets and will also set out ambitious plans for the next phase in its high street business support programme.

Council plans to take high street business support to the next level

The programme, which has received national recognition as a model of best practice, was established to help tackle the ongoing challenges faced by the borough’s high streets, providing support to high street retailers and hospitality businesses.

The second phase of the Pride in Our High Streets programme was launched in 2018, and saw £2.2m committed to a range of high street initiatives alongside significant investment from a number of town councils including Wellington, Oakengates and Dawley. The council’s investment has also attracted more than £1.3m of private sector investment to date.

Since the launch of the programme, 30 empty retail premises in the borough have been brought back into use, creating more than 100 local high street jobs to date, with many more projected as the businesses grow.

Investment from the programme into façade improvements has seen the transformation of many shop frontages to give the borough’s high streets visual appeal, and businesses have been supported to diversify or start-up, to aid recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through an innovative business grants and support programme more than £390k of support has been provided to local businesses and high streets.

The council’s unique Young High Street Challenge has attracted national interest for its scope and engagement of over 1000 young people to date from schools across the borough in setting out their ideas for the future of the High Street. 

Cllr Lee Carter, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood, Commercial and Regeneration, said:

“Our nationally-recognised Retail Start-Up grants programme has supported new businesses opening across all six of our borough towns, adding to high street diversity, increasing the food and drink offer and the range of independent retailers, without displacing existing business.

“Our Diversification grants, delivered in response to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, have helped existing local businesses to take on the challenge of on-line competition, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to develop and provide this support at such a crucial time.”

“The Pride in Our High Streets programme has also delivered on its plans to make our high streets more attractive, with some 50 properties having been transformed to date as part of our Property Façade Improvement Programme.

“I’m particularly pleased that young people in Telford and Wrekin have also actively engaged with the programme. Almost 1,000 young people participated in our Young High Street Challenge which promoted entrepreneurship, and the winning business – Retro Shack in Wellington, created by students from Wrekin College – is still trading now, demonstrating the power of young people to design and manage a successful high street enterprise.”

The council’s Pride in Our High Street programme has delivered and funded other initiatives aimed at young people, including the launch of Wellington Youth Market scheduled for this summer, and a ‘High Street MBA’ programme, created in partnership with Wrekin College. This initiative comprises a learning experience for 15-18 year olds designing practical solutions to regenerate high streets which is being piloted in Telford in June 2021 before a national roll-out.

To further support the borough’s high streets, the programme also developed marketing initiatives including High Street Heroes and Loyal to Local campaigns, and there are plans to launch an app this summer which will be a free marketing tool for all borough high street businesses.

The Pride in Our High Streets report being presented to cabinet will also set out proposals for taking the programme forward into its third phase.

Plans include extending successful initiatives such as grant programmes, façade improvements, young enterprise and marketing initiatives.

Phase three would also see the establishment of a Place Plan for each borough town high street, engaging with town councils and local partners. New initiatives would look to further grant schemes, create inspiring environments and leisure opportunities, encourage ‘green’ high streets through eco-friendly initiatives, create welcoming and safe high streets, and continue to engage young people in high street regeneration.

Jake Taylor, owner of The Music Vault in Wellington which benefited from a £10,000 Start-Up grant from the PiOHS programme earlier this year, said: 

“It is great that Telford & Wrekin Council recognises the incredibly important role that high streets play in the community. This grant will transform my business, allowing me to take on a proper retail unit, offer local employment and help me attract many more visitors to Wellington high street.”

Cllr Carter added:

“I’m delighted that Telford and Wrekin is recognised nationally as leading the way with high street regeneration and I look forward to seeing how phase three of the programme can take pride in our high streets to the next level.”