The first 14 towns out of a list of 20 have been chosen to pilot a scheme that aims to rejuvenate ailing high streets across the UK.
Seven of the towns selected to participate in the government’s High Streets Task Force pilot are in the North West. They are: Swinton, Salford; Accrington Town, Hyndburn; Kendal, South Lakeland; Friargate, Preston; Ellesmere Port, Cheshire West & Chester; Huyton Town Centre, Knowsley, and Withington District Centre, Manchester.
These towns will receive online training, access to research, face-to-face support, and access to footfall data.
Some of the areas are already undergoing development, including Ellesmere Port, which gained approval in September for a £16m public services hub in the town centre.
The government is also seeking views on whether an online register of commercial properties should be produced to make it easier for developers to bring empty shops back into use.
The High Street Task Force was announced by the Government last year in response to recommendations from an expert panel chaired by businessman John Timpson. It is run by the Institute for Place Management on behalf of the government.
In July, the government announced a £3.6bn Towns Fund, £1bn of which is intended as a High Streets Fund, created to help high streets adapt and evolve. In August, the government announced 50 towns will be given up to £25m, along with the 51 already announced, bringing the total number to 101.
The High Street Task Force is part of the overall scheme but does not provide funding in and of itself.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “This Government is investing £3.6bn in our great towns, including £1bn to help our high streets to adapt and evolve while remaining vibrant and safe places at the heart of our communities.
“Central to the mission of this new Government is levelling up towns and regions, ensuring prosperity and opportunity are available to everyone. Over the course of 2020, we will invest hundreds of millions into projects to transform our town centres and support bespoke plans to meet the needs of individual local communities.”
Jake Berry, minister for the Northern Powerhouse, said: “Every place has its own unique strengths and challenges, but all our town centres and high streets have one thing in common, they are the lifeblood of communities.”