New scheme will offer firms cash to move into town

GOSPORT’S town centre is set for a boost with a new £56,000 scheme to help businesses move into its empty shops.

The scheme, proposed by Gosport's Town Team, aims to fill at least five empty shops in the centre, awarding grants of up to £7,000.

Applicants must be independent and relocating will not be permitted unless they are expanding.

If awarded the grant firms will receive the cash to spend on the shop’s appearance.

The scheme will see solicitors and accountants reduce their fees, which all in all will be worth about £15,600 to the incoming shops.

Those fees will be reduced by the firms, not subsidised.

Each successful applicant will get £10,000 in benefits, including free business planning advice.

Graham Jacobs is chairman of the Town Team, which approved funding the scheme from its pot of £110,000, awarded to the team from the High Street Innovation Fund.

The Town Team will give £37,000 to the project, bringing its total spent so far to £57,741.

Graham said: ‘If we let five shops then that’s a good success but there are some caveats to it.

‘We’re not just going to give money away for people to spend on business rates or their rents.

We have to put a limit on it because we have to see how successful it’s going to be.’

Mr Jacobs added that the scheme was not meant for existing businesses.

It will help those who want to move into units in High Street, Bemisters Lane, North Cross Street, a section of South Street and part of Walpole Road.

Applicants must present a business plan showing sustainability and how the grant will be spent.

The council will try to recover any grant money paid to firms that fold within 12 months of receiving the cash.

And the Town Team wants to see proof of a lease with at least two years’ occupancy, or a freehold.

The council, which sits on the team, will run the scheme.

Its leader, Cllr Mark Hook, said: ‘We are frequently being told we should be giving incentives to people to try and start business in the town centre.

‘What we’re trying to do is encourage people by giving grants.’