Search begins for country’s best high streets

Queen Street in Amble has a range of independent shops.
Queen Street in Amble has a range of independent shops.
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The Government today launches the second Great British High Street competition, giving towns the opportunity to win a share of £50,000.

High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt called on communities across the country to enter the competition and celebrate their success in transforming towns and cities into great places to shop and socialise.

Bondgate Within in Alnwick won the title of Britain's Best Shopping Street in the Google Street View Awards in 2011.

Bondgate Within in Alnwick won the title of Britain's Best Shopping Street in the Google Street View Awards in 2011.

The first Great British High Street competition last year saw 135 communities battle it out to be crowned the nation’s best. Belper in Derbyshire emerged as the overall winner. Ms Mordaunt said she wanted to see even more entries this year with communities for the first time having the chance to vote directly for their best-loved high street.

“High streets are a vital part of our economy supporting thousands of jobs in retail and leisure, but they are also the heart of all communities providing a great place for friends and family to meet,” she said. “There is so much amazing innovation happening on our high streets. We want to reward the great work that is being done to improve these crucial assets as well as showcase ideas which can be a springboard for others to try. The first competition last year was a tremendous success and I want this year to be even better.”

The competition is designed to help revitalise high streets by promoting the great work that is being done and sharing good ideas across the country. As well as the cash prize, winners will also receive dedicated support and mentoring from industry experts which could range from one-to-one coaching to advice on digital marketing.

The competition categories are: Best city-centre high street; best town-centre high street; best market-town high street; best coastal-community high street; best village high street; best parade of shops; best London high street.

The nominations will come from throughout the UK and a shortlist will be announced in early August. Those shortlisted will be visited by the Future High Streets Forum judging panel made up of industry leaders from across retail, property and business. Residents will be able to vote online when shortlisted candidates are announced.

A renewed focus on our high streets has led to a revival in many areas across the UK with latest figures showing that year-on-year average weekly retail sales increased by 4.8 per cent in January. This was the 23rd consecutive month of retail sales growth and the longest period of sustained year-on-year growth since May 2008. Overall vacancy rates are now at their lowest level since 2010 and reoccupation rates for the high street are much higher, at 70 per cent, than they are for shopping centres or retail parks.

Details of how to enter the competition can be found at www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk. The deadline for entries is Friday, July 17.