FEARS have been raised by a Tory town councillor that government money is being wasted on schemes that will bring "no economic benefit" to businesses.

Councillor Antonio Piazza says he is “struggling to believe” that improvement works planned for the junction of Union Street and Church Street will benefit local retailers.

The works are just one of the improvement schemes planned for Trowbridge town centre with money from the £16.3 million awarded from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.

The aim of FHSF is to renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that "drives growth, improves experience and ensures future sustainability".

Cllr Pizza said: “When I was told that Trowbridge had won the Future High Street bid of £16.3 million pounds, I was excited because it gives hope to the shops and town centre.

“However, over the past few weeks I have been extremely disappointed to hear that hundreds of thousands of pounds, probably rising to millions, will be spent on Atkins and Wiltshire Council widening pavements and making changes to the junction of Church Street and Union Street.

“I am struggling to believe that using part of the £16.3m in funding for this purpose directly supports our small local businesses in Trowbridge and fulfils intentions set out in the grant criteria.”

Wiltshire Council leader councillor Richard Clewer said: “This work is being planned as one of the Future High Streets-funded schemes in Trowbridge.

“Schemes include a vacant units grant for businesses, support to renovate the Town Hall, improvements to wayfinding and public space, enhancements along the River Biss, and pedestrian improvements to the town centre.

“People were asked to provide feedback on the proposed schemes during a stakeholder and public engagement exercise between January – February this year."

Cllr Clewer said that among other topics, the responses showed that the most likely improvements to encourage people to travel more sustainably into the town centre would be: ‘Improvements to footways’ (mentioned by 53 per cent), ‘Improved pedestrian/cycle crossings’ (40 per cent), and ‘Improved street lighting’ (34 per cent). 

Cllr Clewer added: “A more accessible town centre and high street is key to encouraging visitors to spend more time in the town and supporting local businesses.

“We hope that this investment in Trowbridge will help to invigorate the Trowbridge town centre and support the local community and economy in the future.”

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