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House of Commons Hansard
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Town Centre Investment
20 July 2020
Volume 678
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What steps he is taking to increase investment in town centres. [904951]

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What steps he is taking to increase investment in town centres. [904955]

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What steps he is taking to increase investment in town centres. [904968]

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What steps he is taking to increase investment in town centres. [904973]

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Our £3.6 billion towns fund will drive the economic regeneration of towns to deliver long-term economic and productivity growth. The towns fund will play an important role in the support of our country’s economic recovery, bringing forward public investment to create jobs and boost confidence in towns, as well as levering investment in from the private sector.

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The beautiful towns across East Devon boast many independent shops on their high streets, providing the customer service that people just cannot get with a click of a mouse. As we reopen our high streets safely and encourage people to think local first, the Government must press on with plans to regenerate town centres. What plans does my right hon. Friend have for the next phase of the future high streets fund?

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My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that we will set out our plans for a competitive round of the towns fund later this year. As I said to him when I visited Exmouth with him last year, that is the kind of town that the fund was designed to serve, and I very much look forward to seeing its submission. In terms of immediate investment, the Heart of the South West local enterprise partnership will receive £35.4 million from the getting building fund for shovel-ready projects across the area, including in Devon. We will announce 160 successful projects from across England at the end of this month.

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Ipswich town centre is at the heart of life in our town, but it faces many challenges that have only been made greater by covid-19. A great deal of work is going into developing a coherent strategy to regenerate our town centre, with the input of both private and public sectors, under the Ipswich Vision partnership. Will my right hon. Friend recognise the excellent work that has gone into developing the strategy for Ipswich town centre as he considers our proposed timetable for receiving £25 million of town deal funding in October this year?

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I am delighted that the ideas developed over the past several years by the Ipswich Vision board are being used as the foundation for the Ipswich town deal. My officials are looking forward to receiving Ipswich’s proposals in the town investment plan that is, as my hon. Friend says, being submitted on 30 October. We have recently announced that Ipswich, like other towns that are recipients of the towns fund, can apply to my Department for up to £1 million to kick-start its work, create jobs, boost confidence and help the local economy to recover.

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Bolton has shovel-ready town centre regeneration schemes including Le Mans Crescent and Church Wharf. Uncertainty created by covid-19 means that financial backers are looking to the Government to act as guarantor of last resort. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me and the leader of Bolton Council to discuss ways to help support those well developed regeneration plans? As I am sure he will concur, Bolton is ready to be the epicentre of this Government’s levelling-up agenda.

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I congratulate Bolton and my hon. Friend on the very impressive work that they are doing with the council to transform the town. Bolton is one of the initial 100 towns selected to submit proposals for a town deal, and, again, I look forward to seeing the submissions shortly. As I said in my previous answer, Bolton can also apply to the Department for an advance of £1 million from the town deal to fund some of those projects that he describes. I also understand that, as a result of Bolton being part of the future high streets fund, it is likely to include support for Trinity Gateway, Le Mans Crescent, Church Wharf and Crompton Place—a number of extremely important regeneration projects.

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Accrington town centre is one of the many places that have been left behind for too long. It is at the heart of my community and now that I am the Member of Parliament, I intend to be the strong voice that is needed to make sure that it is not a forgotten town any more. Will the Secretary of State accept my invitation to visit Accrington and our amazing local businesses to discuss with me how I can make sure that it gets the investment that is so desperately needed?

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I would be delighted to accept my hon. Friend’s invitation to Accrington. From what I have seen in her relatively short period in this House, she is exactly the strong voice that her constituents deserve. We have shown consistently through our initiatives, such as the towns fund, which we have been discussing, and the high streets fund, our commitment to levelling up all parts of the country, and we are doing that once again with our £900 million getting building fund, £34 million of which will benefit her constituents in Lancashire. I look forward to announcing, with her local enterprise partnership, those projects by the end of the month.

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Does the Secretary of State agree that the provision of appropriate community spaces and opportunities in town centres can be crucial to social cohesion? During decades of austerity, our communities have lost so much of their town centres. Will the Secretary of State tell me what steps are being taken to ensure that any town centre regeneration plan is drawn up with the help of the community members so that communities are prioritised and benefited, including through jobs and social spaces?

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I agree that we need to invest in our town centres and our high streets. The Government had begun that work even before the pandemic created so much additional economic disruption. The towns fund and the high streets fund are important initiatives that will help local communities to set a course for the future, with investment in infrastructure, in town centre regeneration, in skills, and in culture, and local people are at the heart of each and every one of those town deals or high street bids.