£100k to bring empty shops back into use

Mary Portas .
Mary Portas .

KIRKLEES Council has been given £100,000 to bring empty high street shops back into use.

The council is one of 100 local authorities to benefit from the government’s £10m High Street Innovation Fund, brought about on the recommendation of high street guru Mary Portas in her High Street Review.

It is not yet known which Kirklees towns might benefit from the fund, or how it might be used.

A spokeswoman for Kirklees said: “Any funding to help invigorate and stimulate the town centre is welcome.

“We will look at how to spend it to have the maximum impact, whether that is in Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley or Holmfirth.”

Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood said it would be ‘very interesting’ to see how the council proposed to spend the money.

“While I expect the towns with the most empty shops will be the priority, I am keen to see some investment for the town centres we have in Batley and Spen,” he said. “All our town centres, Batley, Birstall, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton, have empty units and all of them could benefit from some investment to help bring these shops back into use.

“I hope we will see a share of this funding and I will be taking a close interest in the council’s deliberations on how they should spend it.”

MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield, Simon Reevell, said the money provided the council with opportunity to prove its commitment to north Kirklees.

He said: “This is a test for Kirklees to demonstrate that it does want to do something about towns like Dewsbury. When we see where this money goes we will know whether it is serious about helping north Kirklees, or whether the lion’s share is spent in Huddersfield.”

Nationally, the High Street Innovation Fund has been criticised after it emerged one of the areas allocated £100,000 had just two vacant stores in its main town centre.

Portas’ review of ailing town centres says local authorities should lead by example by not leaving properties empty.