Robert's Weekly Column - 10th July 2019

Our high streets are a key part of our local communities and local economies. They create jobs, boot the economy and help small businesses thrive. 

I recognise that changing consumer behaviour and the rise of online shopping presents a significant challenge and that’s why we are taking action to help them evolve.

This is why I was very pleased when The Future High Streets Fund was launched in December 2018 as part of the government’s plan for the high street.

Last month the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport together with the Architectural Heritage Fund and National Lottery Heritage Fund announced a £62 million package of support to breathe new life into historic high streets across the country, to restore historic buildings, create new work spaces and cultural venues. As part of the overall funding, £55 million has been allocated from the Future High Streets Fund.

Swindon Borough Council’s application for £25m in funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund was among the bids to make it through to the next assessment phase. More than 300 bids from across the country were submitted for a slice of the £675m funding available.

The Government spent several months going through the many funding applications and Swindon’s proposal to transform Fleming Way and the bus station was chosen as one of those which best demonstrates how to tackle the challenge of the changing High Street.

The Council will now receive a grant of up to £150,000 to complete the business case and details to make the bid ‘shovel ready’ so work can start in 2020.

On Saturday, I visited Bishopstone and Hinton Parva Garden Village Fete with local Cllr Gary Sumner. There were lots of visitors and we managed to catch up with residents. After this, I paid a visit to Wroughton carnival, which saw lots of local groups come together with Swindon 105.5 to provide a fantastic family filled event. The day kicked off with a wonderful parade, which saw lots of people celebrate and raise funds for good local causes.

I was also very pleased to see the hardworking local Borough & Parish Cllr Caryl Sydney-Smith at Saturday’s Love Toothill event at Toothill Church looking at Toothill Big Local plans & catching up with some old friends. Toothill Big Local provides the opportunity for groups, societies and other organisations to apply for funding of projects and activities, in line with the community’s aims and objectives set out in the Toothill Big Local Plan, to directly benefit the Toothill Big Local Area. One of the main ideas discussed was the Village Tarvern building, which the organisation have recently acquired. They will be using the building to offer a wider range of facilities to the local community. Drop in sessions will be advertised over the coming weeks to let everyone know more about this.