As the nation continues to unlock from Covid-19 restrictions while remaining mindful of the need to behave carefully, there is an opportunity to transform our high streets which can be taken.
The High Street Strategy, published by Government earlier this month, sets out plans for high streets and how they can adapt and thrive after the pandemic. The strategy outlines government action in five areas; breathing new life into empty buildings, supporting businesses on the high street, improving the public realm, creating safe and clean spaces, and celebrating pride in our local communities.
Measures include plans to eradicate the scourge of chewing gum litter blighting the high street, new guidance for local authorities to manage graffiti; as well as outlining how millions of trees will be planted on high streets to improve our green spaces.
The strategy also includes the extending of pavement licences and outdoor sales of alcohol for twelve months, as well as supporting more entrepreneurs, start-ups and independent businesses through new guidance for local areas on how they can best support businesses.
We have seen how national events and celebrations can help bring our communities together locally. It will also become easier to hold street parties to mark sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games, which are being held in this country next year, in addition to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which will also be celebrated in 2022.
This strategy follows Crawley’s inclusion in the Government’s Towns Fund. Following submission of a Town Investment Plan last July, Crawley has received more than £21 million to help boost job opportunities, business growth and economic recovery.
The Government are also launching a new £150 million Community Ownership Fund, which will provide financial backing to help protect the social fabric of communities.
From this summer, community groups will have the opportunity to bid for up to £250,000 in matched funding through this new programme to take over local institutions such as pubs, theatres, shops and sports grounds at risk of closure.
Earlier this month I was in Ifield West to meet with CityFibre and see for myself their work rolling out full fibre broadband in Crawley.
This installation of gigabit-speed broadband in Crawley neighbourhoods and Manor Royal is part of a £23 million investment connecting up to 15,000 homes and businesses by the end of the year.
This kind of investment will help us to build back better, with this once in a generation upgrade future-proofing network infrastructure, at a time when digital connectivity has never been so important.
These improvements will make Crawley an even better place to live, work and visit, in addition to strengthening our position as a key travel hub.
Henry Smith MP