PM launches town centre revival plan with £10m 'chewing gum taskforce'

PM launches town centre revival plan with £10m 'chewing gum taskforce'

PM launches town centre revival plan with £10m ‘chewing gum taskforce’, push to repurpose empty shops and ‘National High Streets Day’

  • The government is launching push to regenerate town centres after pandemic
  • A £10m chewing taskforce will help bid to remove the blight from high streets
  • Empty shops could be repurposed and National High Street Day introduced 

Boris Johnson today launched a town centre revival plan with a £10million taskforce to clean up chewing gum and a ‘National High Streets Day’ to boost local pride.

The government is stepping up a campaign to rescue urban centres across England after they were ‘hollowed out’ during the pandemic.

It wants to see derelict buildings transformed into new businesses or homes, while communities could get more opportunities to own local facilities such as pubs, theatres and sports grounds.

The PM reiterated his determination to ‘level up’ the country in a speech in Coventry today, although he gave few new details about what the slogan will mean. 

Boris Johnson today launched a town centre revival plan with a £10million taskforce to clean up chewing gum (pictured)

The PM reiterated his determination to ‘level up’ the country in a speech in Coventry today, although he gave few new details about what the slogan will mean

Boris Johnson vowed more investment and more powers for local mayors to ‘level up’ Red Wall areas today – as he scrambled to reassure traditional Conservative heartlands that they will not be left out in the cold.

The Prime Minister insisted that his drive to boost Midlands and Northern areas where the Tories have been surging politically does not mean ‘rich areas get poorer’.

Speaking in Coventry, he said it is an ‘outrage’ that people in Blackpool have far lower life expectancy than in other wealthier areas. 

And he stressed that many of the differences were within regions – pointing out the striking variation in fortunes between Leeds and Bradford. 

Mr Johnson said fuelling the economy in other parts of the UK would not be ‘bad for London’, arguing it means ‘more customers and more business for our national metropolis’.

The premier said the UK was the most ‘unbalanced’ developed economies in the world and had been ‘firing on one cylinder’ for too long. 

‘Levelling up is not a jam spreading operation,’ he said. ‘It is win-win for the whole UK.’ 

But despite floating new ‘county’ mayors, Mr Johnson admitted he only had the ‘skeleton’ of what needed to be done as he came under fire for a lack of detail in his keynote speech. 

Former No10 chief Dominic Cummings bluntly branded the address ‘cr**’ and said the ‘levelling up’ slogan was ‘vapid’. 

Many of the elements of the regeneration plan highlighted today had been announced before.

The package included councils in England getting powers to take over derelict buildings through compulsory purchase orders, so they can be converted into new homes.

They will be encouraged to turn empty offices into housing where appropriate, and empty shops could be transformed into entertainment venues or new businesses without the need for planning permission. 

A new taskforce will be formed to get rid of the blight of chewing gum on streets, with gum producers investing £10million over the next five years to help fund a clean-up and anti-littering campaigns.

Graffiti will also be targeted with a £2million in dedicated funding, according to the Communities department. 

Community groups across the UK can bid for up to £250,000 in matched funding from a £150million Community Ownership Fund to take over local pubs, theatres, shops and sports grounds.

The stricken hospitality has also been given a boost with pavement licenses – including the outdoor sale of alcohol – extended for 12 months across England.

The government also pointed to the £2billion funding announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in May last year for cycling and walking schemes.

A UK wide, annual National High Streets Day will be kicked off to encourage pride in local areas, and rules on street parties will be eased. 

A four-day bank holiday weekend has already been announced for June 2022 to mark the Queen’s 70-year reign.  

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: ‘As we build back better from the pandemic, we are transforming our high streets across the UK into the kind of vibrant places we will want to visit, work and call home for generations to come.

‘This strategy sets out a vision for entrepreneurship to thrive, where local shops and businesses are supported with permanent al fresco dining, derelict eyesores transformed into quality homes and new hubs for business and entertainment encouraged.

‘With more funding for town centres and powers for communities to take a stake in their local area, we are delivering on our commitments to level up and put power in the hands of local people. I look forward to seeing what local communities have in store for national celebrations such as Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year – a remarkable occasion that we will mark in style.’

But Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: ‘You don’t level up by throwing money at towns here and there and creating a chewing gum taskforce. 

‘You do it by backing city-regions like ours to create a London-style transport network with London level fares that will unite towns and cities and transform the life chances of the 2.8million people who live here.’  

Mr Johnson was shown around a UK battery plant today, including seeing this racing car 

Many of the elements of the regeneration plan highlighted by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick today had been announced before

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