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Regeneration of Towns and High Streets

Volume 699: debated on Monday 19 July 2021

As we build back better from the pandemic, we are transforming our high streets into the kind of places that people want to call home for generations to come. Last week, the Prime Minister announced the last 15 of our 101 town deals worth £2.4 billion, alongside launching our £150 million community ownership fund and our high streets strategy. That set out a vision for cleaner and more vibrant high streets where entrepreneurs can thrive and local businesses are supported, with permanent al fresco dining and where derelict eyesores are transformed into quality homes.

Now then, Ashfield has benefited from more than £70 million from the towns fund and the future high streets fund, which is welcome news to our struggling high streets, but the independent traders in Kirby-in-Ashfield are up in arms at Ashfield District Council’s decision to double car parking charges on a four-hour stay. This is after it has increased its own allowances by £55,000 a year. Will my right hon. Friend please remind the politicians at Ashfield District Council that, while they are taking Government cash to help regenerate our high streets, they, too, could help by not doubling car parking charges, which hurt our shoppers, our shopworkers and our high streets?

I am delighted that my hon. Friend’s constituency has received that £70 million to deliver exciting regeneration projects across his local area. He is right to say that it would be perverse if the Government are doing so much, with his help, to support the people of Ashfield for his council not to play its part as well. We want high streets to be as accessible as possible, whether that is by car, walking or cycling, and to be attractive places for local people to visit, to live in and to shop.

I thank the Secretary of State for coming to visit me in Newcastle-under-Lyme earlier this month. Newcastle-under-Lyme is benefiting from more than £34 million of investment through the towns deal and the future high streets fund. He knows the town very well and will know that the Ryecroft site, in particular, has been an eyesore for a long time, along with the derelict former Sainsburys site and the former civic offices. Does he therefore welcome, as I do, the fact that we now have a Conservative council under the leadership of Simon Tagg that has a proposal for the site, with the demolition of the old offices, and that with our future high streets funding we will see that developed in the next couple of years?

It was a pleasure to visit Newcastle-under-Lyme once again with my hon. Friend—a town that I have known for more than a decade. It was heartening to see that a good Conservative council very ably led by Simon Tagg has a real 10 or 20-year plan for the town centre backed by tens of millions of pounds of Government investment. That is exactly what we want to see replicated on high streets across the country.

I am backing an exciting multi-million-pound bid put forward by Devon County Council and East Devon District Council to help regenerate east Devon’s largest town, Exmouth. If the bid is successful, the planned Dinan Way extension will improve journeys into Exmouth and cut congestion, and will also see the town centre spruced up around the train station. What steps will my right hon. Friend take to make sure that every corner of the country, including the south-west, sees the full benefits of levelling up?

We have already committed over £430 million of investment in the south-west alone through the getting building fund, the future high streets fund and the towns fund. My hon. Friend and I have spoken many times about Exmouth and I visited the town with him a year or so ago. It is exactly the kind of place that these funds were designed to support. I very much look forward to reviewing the advice from my officials with regard to the bid for the levelling up fund, and, if it is a successful bid, to seeing positive change for his constituents in the months and years ahead.

It is great to be able to announce that after a long campaign through my parliamentary petition and an Adjournment debate in this House, a bid for the levelling-up fund has been submitted by Rotherham Council to improve Dinnington high street. However, I am greatly disappointed that Rotherham Council has not submitted a bid for other high streets across Rother Valley such as Maltby, Thurcroft and Swallownest. What can this Government do to ensure that Rotherham Council has plans for and improves all our high streets across Rother Valley?

I wish my hon. Friend a happy birthday. I am delighted that the council put in a bid for Dinnington high street, where he and I met for the first time in 2019. He asks a very important question about what the Government will do for smaller towns across the country, particularly those in ex-mining and ex-steel communities—places that I know well in north Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire. That is one reason that we brought forward the levelling-up fund, which I hope his constituency will benefit from. It does require councils such as Rotherham to step up and develop with their local Member of Parliament high-quality bids, so I hope it will do so in the years ahead for the other towns in his constituency.