Government launches £1m Regeneration Drive Competition
The government has launched a competition to find 12 areas to share £1 million under a drive to regenerate town centres.
The move followed last year's review of high streets by retail guru Mary Portas aimed at halting the decline of high streets and closure of local shops.
The 12 towns in England will be selected to run so-called Portas Pilots and "breathe new life" into local shopping centres, creating town teams, made up of the key players in their local community - such as the council, landlords, shopkeepers and the local MP.
Local government minister Grant Shapps said: "Our high streets have faced stiff competition from internet shopping, and out-of-town shopping centres, leaving them unused, unloved and under-valued.
"The internet is not going to go away, and so for our high streets to survive they need to offer something new and exciting.
"So today I'm offering a golden ticket to 12 town centres across the country to become Portas Pilots - areas with the vision and enthusiasm to breathe new life into what should be the beating heart of their communities, and they will get Mary's and my support as they try out the ideas in her recent review."
Mary Portas said: "I am thrilled that now there is an opportunity to turn my recommendations into reality by giving communities across the country the opportunity to come forward with their vision for breathing new life into their locality.
"I want the first 12 town teams to challenge the old ways of working, experiment, take risks and reaffirm their place at the heart of a community. A place we all want to be and can be proud of."
Peter Box, of the Local Government Association, said: "Councils do, of course, appreciate any additional pot of funding which can help towards improving local high streets.
"However, we feel that this Government pilot simply tinkers around the edges.
"There have been two remarkably similar initiatives recently - the high street recession fund and the high street riot fund, both of which also failed to give local partners the tools they need to make a real impact on the challenges high streets face.
"We urge the Government to now step up and give councils some real power.
"Councils don't want to see short-term schemes - instead they want to see some firm action and a commitment from all Government departments and agencies."
A spokesman at the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "We know that councils have already shown a real appetite to get involved in this process.
"Far from tinkering around the edges, these pilots will have every opportunity to bring real and lasting change to the role of our high streets to turn them into places local people want to be.
"We've been clear that we want to see ambitious and innovative schemes that test the potential of the recommendations Mary Portas put forward in her review.
"The whole point of the twelve pilots is to learn the lessons in order that other towns can adopt and implement the ideas across the country."