Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

Empty shops get 2.6m in grants

Boarded up shop
The aim is to revitalise high streets across England

Councils across England have been awarded £52,000 each in government grants to boost the local economy.

The money has been paid out under the Real Help Now empty shop initiative, which helps high streets struggling as a result of the recession.

A total of £2.6m was given to 51 local authorities, including many London councils, and in Norwich, Carlisle, Portsmouth, Redditch and Torbay.

It will help councils find new uses for empty shops in time for Christmas.

Communities Secretary John Denham said: "We know that the downturn has really hurt some English high streets, especially where there was already high deprivation.

Boarded-up eyesores

"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."

About 30% of the grants have been awarded to local authorities in rural areas.

Chief executive of the Commission for Rural Communities Sarah McAdam said: "A few store closures in a small town can have a large impact on the appearance and vitality of its high street, which can have important knock-on effects for its sustainability as a place.

"We hope that this fund will help support more innovative schemes to help these rural towns recover from the recession and be thriving hubs for their rural populations."

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