Page last updated at 18:44 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 19:44 UK

Money for empty stores projects

Stoke-on-Trent is to be given about £50,000 to turn empty shops into community facilities.

The city council is one of 57 local authorities being given money to find "creative ways" to fill vacant stores.

Communities Secretary John Denham said it would help "transform and re-open empty shops" to help keep town centres vibrant and combat the recession.

But the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has criticised the scheme and said it will not attract shoppers.

Mr Denham suggested the money being given to more deprived areas could be used to transform boarded-up shops into learning centres, meeting places or artists' showrooms.

However, the BRC said art galleries and community groups would not help existing businesses.

It predicts that 15% of High Street shops will be empty by the end of 2009. This would be more than double the 7% of stores that were vacant at the start of the year.

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