EXPANSION of a government funding scheme has seen Bacup shortlisted as one of 100 towns which could get a share of a £1 billion funding pot to improve high streets.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP announced it as one of a further 50 areas shortlisted to benefit from the £1 billion Future High Streets Fund.

Earlier this year, Rossendale Council bosses were told Bacup’s bid had not progressed to the business case development stage but that its bid had been selected to receive bespoke feedback with a view of submitting it again in a new round of funding in the new year.

But the extra funding means Government bosses have now decided to take the proposals for Bacup to the next stage.

Mr Jenrick praised the bold and wide-ranging vision put forward for the centre of Bacup, as he championed the role high streets have to play in driving economic growth.

The council’s Bacup 2040 Vision was used as the basis of its bid for the Future High Street Fund.

More than £2m of investment has been brought into the town already through the Bacup Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) fund.

The development of the vision and the masterplan is part of work to build in the success of the THI and bring in further investment

Initial ideas put forward in the vision and masterplan include improving the food and drink offer by expanding the pavement area around Union Street which is central to the core town centre to encourage a café culture.

A redeveloped market area would act as a market and events area.

Five derelict buildings could be re-purposed so that they can be brought back into use

And bosses would hope to make sure there is sufficient parking available, including council-owned car parks which the local authority has pledged will remain free.

Towns across England will join 50 successful areas already shortlisted and develop plans to reinvent their high streets.

The extension to the shortlist comes on the back of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund announced by the Prime Minister last month, which included an additional £325 million for the Future High Streets Fund, taking the overall fund to £1 billion as the Government looks to drive forward local growth.

Each of these successful communities will receive immediate revenue funding of up to £150,000 to develop their bids, and then will be eligible for up to £25 million of capital investment to invest in infrastructure, housing and work spaces.

Mr Jenrick said: “Town centres and high streets are at the heart of local communities.

“As consumer habits change we know that some are facing challenging times.

“Our plan to help the high street evolve and thrive involves investing £1 billion in transformative infrastructure, town centre housing, workspaces and culture - as well as cutting business rates for most smaller shops and businesses.

“With support these areas will produce long term plans and receive up to £25m each to make them a reality.

“Bacup has the potential to be front and centre of this approach with bold proposals to transform the high street in their areas.

“This government is investing to ensure our towns and cities succeed and prosperity and opportunities are shared across the country.”

The High Streets Task Force, launched last month, will also support local leaders in delivering ambitious plans for improving infrastructure and revitalising high streets and town centres.

The scheme was launched in December 2018 and is a key part of the Government’s plan to renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that drives economic growth and sustainably improves living standards.