Businesses based in and around Southend town centre can now apply for a grant of up to £5,000 to enhance their shop fronts as the council looks to invest and improve the town centre shopping area.
The shop front grant scheme, funded through the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) Local Growth Fund, seeks to encourage businesses based in central Southend to revitalise their shop front. Businesses can apply for grants of up to £5,000 and the grant is available to cover up to 75% of the project’s costs, with the remaining 25% being funded by the business owner.
This initiative is running in parallel with a 0% loan scheme to reinvigorate the Town Centre and will be live from today (Thursday 18 March) up until Friday 30 July.
Possible works that the grant covers can include:
- New shop front units
- Repairs of a shop front fixture that is visible from the street including the first and second floors of premises
- Repainting of shop fronts in suitable colours
- Improved signage
- External lighting
The grants are available to owners of independent businesses and vacant units located within central Southend, providing the business does not have more than five stores nationally. The map on the website details the areas eligible for the scheme, which includes the High Street and surrounding streets.
Cllr Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, said: “We are all acutely aware of the challenges facing high streets up and down the country. Southend-on-Sea faces similar issues, such as the change in people’s shopping habits. Whilst we cannot control the rise of online shopping, we can support our town centre businesses by providing financial support where possible, and I am pleased the shop front grant scheme is ready to roll out thanks to the external funding we have gained to make this possible.
"I am particularly pleased that we are seeing proactive projects stemming from the very productive town centre scrutiny project, which allowed us to work closely with businesses and officers to create short, medium and long-term suggestions to re-imagine our High Street.
“As businesses prepare to welcome shoppers back over the next few months, it is vital we work proactive with our town centre businesses to help entice visitors to the High Street.
“Whilst we continue to invest heavily in the High Street with projects currently ongoing, including the council’s recent purchase of the Victoria shopping centre and works at Victoria Circus and London Road. By co-investing with businesses via grants of up to £5,000, we hope we can make the town centre a more inviting place to visit, spend and enjoy, whilst supporting local independent businesses.”
Cllr Ron Woodley, cabinet member for transport, capital and inward investment, said: “I am delighted we have been able to work with SELEP to provide this opportunity for our town centre businesses. This positive step forward will allow Southend to really push on as we continue to follow the Government’s roadmap and begin welcoming visitors back to our town, and boosting our economy.”
Suzanne Gloyne, Southend Business Improvement District manager, said: "Businesses have had to put off projects over the past 12 months and sparingly allocate their funds, but with a roadmap now in place for a permanent reopening this grant will allow High Street businesses to complete one of the projects that they may have cancelled or delayed. We're proud to be supporting the council on this initiative that gives some of our BID businesses the opportunity to refresh their store fronts as we venture into a new beginning in our town."
Christian Brodie, South East LEP Chair, said: “We are really pleased to be able to provide support to this scheme. As the economy opens up this year, our high streets need our support more than ever and it is very encouraging to see a scheme which is particularly aimed at small businesses, as they are so important to the economy of the South East.
“We have innovative, driven, resilient business people in the South East, we are using funds available to us to tackle issues that have developed as a result of the pandemic and we want to offer as much help and support as we can to clear a path for recovery.”
The grant scheme will not be able to fund works that have already begun or works which started prior to a formal offer of grant being made and grants are made at the discretion of the grants board.
The shop front grant is part of a major investment into Southend town centre which also includes the £7m Southend Central Area Transport Scheme (S-CATS) improvement works along the London Road, from College Way right through to Victoria Circus, including planting new trees, repaving the area, improving lighting, introducing new seating and adding more greenery.
For more information about the shop front grant scheme, including where to find the application form, please visit our Town Centre Interventions Project pages.