By Daniel Hunter

A new half a million pound pot will help give local businesses a new way to generate extra funds for projects that will help communities to regenerate their own town centres, High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis announced.

So called business improvement districts are a tried and tested town centre catalyst, used in towns and cities across the world, to raise fund for improvements to local trading areas. Their potential to successfully support town centres growth was outlined by Mary Portas in her review of High Streets.

The government is committed to support the business improvement district model for high street regeneration and this £500,000 fund will help communities who wish to create a business improvement district overcome prohibitive initial start-up costs.

The new High Streets Minister announced that British BIDs will run the loan fund scheme while on a visit to the successful Bedford Business Improvement District, where he was attending the third meeting of the Future High Street's Forum. The forum brings together leaders from across local government, retail, property and business to better understand the competition town centres across the country face and to drive forward new ideas and policies.

British BIDs will offer loans of up to £50,000 to communities and business groups with the potential to successfully establish a new business improvement district.

There are currently over 160 business improvement districts across the UK working on issues such as town centre safety, improvement of public realm, support for local traders and parking initiatives.

High Streets Minster Brandon Lewis said: "Local communities and local businesses know what works best in their area and business improvement districts help them to successfully raise they cash the need to re-energise their high street. Having experts like British BIDs manage our £500,000 loan fund will mean the right communities will be able to take advantage of this new support.

"This is just one of a wide range of measures the government has put in place to help the high street including doubling the amount small business and shops get in business rate relief so it now totals £900 million; cutting National Insurance and corporation tax; and encouraging local innovation and best practice through a range of projects like our 350 town teams.

"We have also changed bureaucratic planning rules to make it easier for empty high street shops to be brought back to life and we are now tackling unpopular parking practices that reduced parking spaces and increased parking charges deterring potential shoppers from coming to town."

Dr Julie Grail, Chief Executive, British BIDs said: "The business improvement district model now has a proven track record in delivering improved management and leadership and, with over 160 business improvement districts currently in operation nationwide, has made a significant contribution to the wider economic performance of many locations.

"As the industry grows and becomes ever more complex, the concept and need for a loan fund, in order to facilitate the successful growth of quality business improvement districts in England is well understood.

"British BIDs, the voice for business improvement districts in the UK, is delighted to be in a position to deliver this fund, on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government, and looks forward to continuing to play a significant role in the future establishment and growth of strong, effective business improvement districts in England."

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