£500,000 of cash from the West of England Combined Authority’s Recovery Fund will see new life breathed into vacant shops and buildings in local high streets.
The Vacant Units Action Project will see empty properties in Bath used for creative projects and pop-up businesses, with satellite projects in Keynsham and Midsomer Norton to follow across a two-year programme.
The scheme will be delivered by Bath & North East Somerset Council as part of its High Streets Renewal programme.
Alongside the £500,000 from WECA, further match funding and in-kind support will be provided by the council and Bath BID.
The project follows on from a pilot to celebrate local retail during the lead-up to Christmas 2020, when the council worked with local artists to promote 12 vacant properties in the city centre by animating shop windows, encouraging two pop-up shops to open.
Councillor Richard Samuel, deputy leader and cabinet member for Resources, said: “We want to do everything we can to help our businesses recover from the impact of Covid-19, which is why we have been working with our partner organisations to share knowledge on effective ways to support our high streets.
“This targeted project will creatively promote vacant properties as viable letting opportunities and will make our high streets as attractive as possible to potential new occupiers and visitors.
“It will also support the investments into our public realm schemes to provide high-quality public spaces at Milsom Street, Kingsmead Square, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton.”
Tim Bowles, West of England Mayor, added: “Through my Regional Recovery Plan, the Combined Authority is investing in this innovative town centre re-structuring programme to revitalise areas hit hard by Covid-19.
“I want to re-invigorate the neighbourhoods we all care about – so that residents have everything they need within a 15-minute walking or cycling radius of their home, including decent, well- paid jobs, local shops and restaurants, leisure and cultural activities, and green infrastructure.
“The pandemic brought into focus how important this is, and with a Combined Authority in the West of England, we have the tools to make it happen.”
Allison Herbert, Chief Executive of the Bath BID, said: “As part of the Bath BID’s work to create the environment for businesses in the city to succeed, we are continually seeking innovative solutions to empty shops on the high street.
“We are pleased to be working in partnership with Bath & North East Somerset Council on this project, which will ensure the city centre’s vacant premises are utilised and that the high street remains welcoming, helping retailers and hospitality businesses to thrive as the city recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”