Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council in Yorkshire has launched a grants scheme to contribute to retailers’ rents and shopfitting costs in a bid to attract new independent shops into the town centre.

The scheme will provide contributions over rent over a two-year period, up to 50% in the first year and 25% in the second year.

Town centre manager Julie Robert said: ‘We all know how difficult the current environment is. We recognised that we had to take further action to support town centre retail and need to work in partnership with both existing and potential retailers to move things forward.

This business grant scheme aims to do just that by encouraging retailers to open up in Rotherham while at the same time providing existing retailers with an opportunity to grow. Our priorities are to improve the quality and diversity of our shopping offer, reduce the number of vacant shops and ultimately increase footfall into the town centre.’

To qualify for the grant, the property needs to have a maximum rental value of £25,000 a year. The business will have to sign up to a business support scheme with a business adviser who will be provided by Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.

The council’s cabinet member for regeneration and development, Councillor Gerald Smith, said: 'The development of a strong independent retail sector is critical if we want to create a vibrant town centre, which is what this business grant scheme is all about. Despite the economic climate we are confident that with our support there are some great opportunities for entrepreneurs.’

The grant scheme may extend in future to cover shop-front improvement for existing retails and street-café grants.