Leader of Conservative group in Wigan backs high street funding plan

A senior opposition politician has welcomed the national Government’s strategy for boosting the high street.
Coun Michael WinstanleyCoun Michael Winstanley
Coun Michael Winstanley

Coun Michael Winstanley says measures being announced in Westminster could help turn urban centres in the borough into thriving places to live and work after the pandemic.

Coun Winstanley, who in addition to leading the councillors who wear the blue rosette in the chamber is a representative for Orrell ward, welcomed the launch of Build Back Better High Streets.

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But while his remarks were criticised in some quarters for lacking specific details of policy, Coun Winstanley was full of praise and said he thinks Wigan and Leigh will benefit.

He said: “I know how much people across the borough treasure their local high street and as we emerge from the pandemic, I am determined to support their recovery so they can thrive in the long-term.

“This high street strategy will help to deliver that – supporting hospitality businesses with more freedoms to trade, encouraging local events so that people can come together and enjoy themselves, and giving local people a real stake in their community.”

Measures in the strategy include extending pavement licences and the outdoor sales of alcohol for 12 months, empowering councils to take over vacant buildings through compulsory purchase orders, so they can be converted into homes, and new guidance to help support entrepreneurs, start-ups and independent businesses.

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The strategy also increases funding for so-called ‘mini-Holland’ schemes to encourage cycling, walking and green forms of travel, introduces plans to eradicate chewing gum litter, along with new guidance for councils to manage graffiti and outlines how millions of trees will be planted on high streets to improve green spaces.

Ministers also want to bring communities together by making it easier for people to hold street parties and picnics during national celebrations like the football’s European Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

Community groups across the Wigan borough can bid for up to £250,000 in matched funding through a new £150m Community Ownership Fund to take over local pubs, theatres, shops and sports grounds at risk of closure.

In some cases, up to £1m could be made available to establish sports clubs or help to buy sports grounds.

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Wigan has already received £16.6 million from the Future High Streets Fund.

Additionally, Wigan, Leigh and Makerfield constituencies have also been identified as priority areas for the Levelling Up Fund, the borough’s Conservatives said.

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