Grant scheme to encourage take-up of empty units in Wakefield city centre revealed

A grant scheme to encourage new businesses to move into empty retail units in Wakefield city centre is set to be signed off next week.

By David Spereall
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:56 pm
The cathedral precinct will be one of the areas targeted by the grants.
The cathedral precinct will be one of the areas targeted by the grants.

A fund, set up by Wakefield Council, will subsidise the cost of making improvements to shop fronts and units in certain parts of the centre.

Businesses moving into an empty unit in the areas concerned will be able to apply for a grant covering 50 per cent of the bill for any upgrades to a shop front, up to the value of £4,000.

That threshold will be raised to £8,000 if the improvements involve internal works as well as to the shop front.

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Councillor Darren Byford said the scheme, which is expected to be approved next week, will improve the general appearance of the city centre.

Cash will also be made available to landlords to help them tailor retail units to the benefit of a new tenant.

The council's portfolio holder for regeneration, Darren Byford, said: "This scheme will support landlords and tenants to carry out improvements to vacant retail units, creating a positive impact on the general appearance of the city centre.

"The scheme forms part of the council’s wider strategy to regenerate and revitalise centres across the district, building on and complementing a range of existing schemes that already support retail businesses in Wakefield."

The grants will be focused around the following five areas, because they currently possess more than half of the city centre's empty units.

- Wood Street

- Lower Cathedral Precinct to Kirkgate

- Cross Street

- Westgate to St Michael's Church

- Doncaster Road to Belle Vue

A report detailing the fund says similar schemes in Pontefract, Castleford and Knottingley have been successful in reducing the number of vacant units.

Figures suggest nearly 16 per cent of Wakefield city centre's shop units are currently empty, a number which is slightly higher than the national average.

That's despite the same report saying post-pandemic footfall recovered faster in Wakefield than in Leeds, Manchester and London.

Senior councillors will be asked to sign off a package worth £720,000 to fund the scheme at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Local Democracy Reporting Service