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Programme launched to reinvigorate West Midlands town centres

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street joins Walsall Council leader Cllr Mike Bird at the launch with Mark Smith from The Sweetshop, Walsall.

A new town centre programme has been launched which will unlock new ‘funding, expertise and support’ from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

Councils in the region were asked to suggest town centres and high streets in need of support.

Five were selected as the first wave, where the ‘combined resources and expertise’ of WMCA, local authorities and the private sector will be brought together to create ‘new opportunities and actions.’

The project will initially target five town centres – Bilston, St Thomas Quarter in Dudley, Bordesley Green in Birmingham, St Matthews Quarter in Walsall and West Bromwich.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has pledged to use his decades of experience in the retail industry to help revive some of the region’s town centres.

‘The future of the high street will not only be about shops, it will be about public services, homes, small businesses and community activities,’ he said.

‘There are many opportunities for our high streets. We must find a positive future for them which embraces technological change. The future of our communities depends upon it.

He also said that he hopes the region will ‘lead the way’ nationally in reimagining the role and function of town centres in the digital age.

‘With a very bold housing and regeneration ambition, strong leadership and as the UK home of 5G we are well placed to do so,’ he added.

A regional task force is also being created to bring together experts from retail, finance, housing, universities and Government to share their knowledge and lend support to the programme.

Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio lead for housing and land, said: ‘Many of our town centres need to re-invent themselves to meet the challenge of the 21st century and meet the needs of our residents.  The WMCA will help councils accelerate their plans to transform these centres and ensure they remain viable.’

Further town centres will be eligible for a second wave of support in 2019.

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