What's your high street like? A sorry parade of estate agencies, chicken shops and boarded-up charity shops — or a vibrant, diverse community hub?
Our betting is it's going to be the former — likely due to the shift in shopping habits as people head online or to large centres, as well documented by Mary Portas.
It's something that's been troubling the Greater London Authority's (GLA) Regeneration Team, which today launched a £9million cash pot to help communities give their high street a helping hand to become a more attractive and buzzy place to visit.
While the High Street Fund creates some exciting funding potential for boroughs, what's more interesting is that community groups — and even individuals — can apply for grants of up to £20,000 through a dedicated Kickstarter-style website. Worth noting is that all these small-scale grants need to attract other funding of at least 25 per cent, so they can't be fully-funded through the GLA cash.
Projects can be almost anything, from cosmetic improvements to an area or launching a street food market to attract more people to visit; tackling licensing issues which prevent cafes and restaurants from putting chairs in the streets, to setting up a traders' association. Arts activities, pop-up venues, and new community spaces are also examples which have been mooted.
The aim of the fund is to breathe new life into the high streets, which are responsible for employing almost 1.5million people in the capital, across around 175,000 businesses — 35 per cent of London's total jobs. In fact, outside of central London over half of the jobs are provided by the 600 high streets in the city. They're also important centres of housing through homes above shops.
As well as the small-scale grants, there are opportunities for organisations to bid for larger amounts of money (either up to £200,000 or up to £2million), but these need to go through a more in-depth application process, details of which can be found on the High Street Fund website.
The £9million fund follows previous — admittedly higher-budget — pots of cash such as High Street 2012 which pimped up the high streets in east London which led to the Olympic park, and the Outer London Fund, which made £50million available to boroughs.