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Reopening of High Streets and Town Centres

Volume 677: debated on Monday 15 June 2020

What steps he is taking to ensure the safe reopening of high streets and town centres as covid-19 restrictions are eased. (903174)

What progress he is making on plans for the safe reopening of high streets and town centres as covid-19 restrictions are eased. (903180)

Helping our towns and cities develop safe trading environments, particularly on high streets, is vital to the Government’s efforts to kick-start our economy, get people back to work and get businesses trading again. We continue to examine all the options to revitalise our high streets. I want to spark a vibrant café culture to support hospitality businesses and make it easier for them to operate outdoors, with seating and tables for temporary markets set up, and for the streets to be temporarily pedestrianised. Many councils are already doing these fantastic things and I will be publishing our plans shortly.

Rugby town centre has reopened today with the unique innovation of images of a rugby ball placed on the ground to remind people of the need for social distancing. As a former salesman, I know that “You can’t sell if you don’t tell”, so does the Secretary of State agree that in addition to the practical safety measures that he has spoken about, councils must reassure people that town centres are open for business by accompanying them with an effective local marketing campaign?

Our £50 million reopening high streets safely fund, of which Rugby is one beneficiary, allows local authorities to create communications plans to give people the confidence to get back on to our high streets, to support local businesses and to help the economy move forwards.

This morning I was able to go to some businesses in Burnley and Padiham and see the incredible work that they have done to get themselves covid-secure, but covid is only one of the challenges facing our high streets, and Burnley has missed out before on the towns fund. Will the Secretary of State reassure me that he is committed still to working with me to make sure that Burnley’s local economy is reinvigorated for the long term?

I can give my hon. Friend exactly that commitment and help to reassure his constituents. I know that Burnley is benefiting from the historic high streets heritage action zones. We will also shortly bring forward the competitive round of the towns fund, where Burnley will be able to apply. I very much look forward to seeing his application, and I support and strongly endorse the campaign of his local newspaper, the Burnley Express, and encourage his constituents to support their local business community by finding time to shop local.