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Government urged to back £350m fund to revive UK high streets

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Campaigners are calling on the government to back a £350m high street buyout fund that would bring communities, business and councils together to revive 200 neglected properties across the country.The Platform Places initiative, backed by the government’s own high street taskforce, is calling on ministers to provide £100m in grants.The funds could, for example, help transform the neglected Dewsbury Arcade in the West Yorkshire town into a community-owned events space, housing arts and crafts makers.

Or it could help buy out a derelict milk processing plant in Totnes, Devon, to build homes, an arts centre and youth facilities.The campaigners say government cash would help underpin £250m of commercial and social investment in the projects.The drive is supported by the British Retail Consortium, the trade body that counts most major retailers among its members, as well as the British Property Federation and several local councils.Other proposals include 50% business rates relief for projects led by community-owned groups, and support for councils to use compulsory purchase orders to tackle buildings that are derelict or have been left vacant for a long time for no serious reason.Finding ways to help community groups, local governments and businesses to work together is seen as essential to tackling the knotty problem of empty buildings blighting town centres; nearly a fifth of shops are owned by overseas investors who may be unaware of local issues.

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