Two ELL boroughs are set to receive £52,000 each towards improving their high streets for the Christmas holiday.
Croydon and Lewisham have been selected to benefit from the £5.6 million municipal scheme, Communities Secretary John Denham has announced.
The money comes as part of the Real Help Now scheme, which has supported many families and businesses through the downturn. The government has pledged to make sure town centres remain vibrant places and earlier this year it put in place a fund to help many of the hardest hit areas reopen or re-use empty shops.
Each council can use the grant as they see fit: to build a showroom for local artists or a nativity scene to spruce up the high street. The government is also making it easier for local residents and organisations to use empty shops with a standardised lease for temporary use while vacant.
John Denham said: “We know that the downturn has really hurt some English high streets especially where there was already high deprivation. But, the real help we are giving now is making a difference in keeping town centres vibrant.
“This money will mean councils can put their creative ideas to work and transform those boarded up eyesores into attractions that bring the shoppers back to the high street.”
Housing and Planning Minister John Healey has given councils special waivers to allow changes to large developments and town centres without needing planning permission. These Local Development Orders make it easier to for developers and councils to find new uses for empty shops.
Funding was allocated to the most deprived local authority areas, based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation, and the highest vacancy rates.