Alfresco dining and pier-end promenading are set to become the flavour of the summer after a financial boost from the government and an easing of limits on outdoor events and parking.
The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced a £56m “welcome back” fund to help coastal towns and high streets in England to reopen as restrictions are eased.
The money will enable councils to improve the “look and feel” of local areas with revamps of green spaces, expansion of outdoor seating and an increase in markets and pop-up food stalls. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government also said the funds could be used for publicity campaigns or to create events including markets and festivals.
Under the measures, pubs will also be allowed to host marquees in their gardens for the duration for summer, rather than the 28 days normally permitted, and caps will be introduced on private parking fines to encourage motorists to visit towns.
Coastal areas are to be a particular hotspot, with all English seaside resorts to receive support under funding designated for towns by the sea. About 70 councils will also benefit from “targeted, hands-on support” from the government’s high street taskforce – an “elite team of high street experts” who will offer advice of adapting to “meet changing consumer demands”.
The boost for domestic tourist hotpots will come as a relief to many holidaymakers, as experts warn that foreign holidays seem unlikely. Europe has experienced a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with several popular destinations for Britons including France, Turkey and Italy entering new restrictions.
Jenrick said the measures would give cities, town and high streets “support to prepare for a great summer”.
“As we move to the next stage on the roadmap out of lockdown, we are all looking forward to being reunited with friends and family outdoors and making a safe and happy return to our favourite shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants,” he said.
“Our welcome back fund gives every city, town and high street support to prepare for a great summer. This funding will help councils and businesses to welcome shoppers, diners and tourists back safely.
“As soon as the roadmap allows, we need to get behind our local businesses and enjoy all that this country has to offer and that we’ve been missing so much.”
Labour said the fund did not go far enough, describing it as a “a drop in the ocean” and a poor supplement for the money cut from local councils in recent years. The shadow communities secretary, Steve Reed, also said the plans were vague.
“This is just a drop in the ocean compared to how much the Conservatives took away over a decade when they pushed our high streets and seaside towns into deep decline, and it’s not clear which areas will benefit,” Reed said.
“The Conservatives have done nothing to level the playing field between high street shops and online retailers. Now they want to hollow high streets out by selling off temporarily closed shops to wealthy developers so they can never reopen as shops again.”