READING has been selected as one of 69 areas in the country to receive funding to transform disused buildings into shops, homes and community spaces.

The council has won £14.3 million from a share of a £95 million put forward by the government.

The money will be used to make improvements to Oxford Road, Castle Street, Market Place and London Street.

Councillor Karen Rowland, Reading Borough Council's lead member for culture, heritage and recreation, said: “We are very excited to have been successful in our bid for High Streets Heritage Action Zone funding, which will help us to enhance the huge heritage value of the areas of Oxford Road, Castle Street and Market Place/ London Street, which all radiate from our town centre.

"It’s a challenging time for high streets everywhere for a whole host of reasons, but we intend to use this funding to good effect by focusing on the heritage value of these streets which will help further improve their appeal. We will now work closely with Historic England on the detail of the project which will encompass a range of works.

"With the council and communities working together we can look to improve shopfront appearances and the public realm of what are key streets in our wonderful town."

Emily Gee, Historic England regional director for London and the South East said: “We are delighted that the High Street Heritage Action Zones announced today mean that the historic character and local commitment to Reading is being harnessed for regeneration.

"Through partnerships like these, heritage can be a great catalyst for positive change and we look forward to working with the people and businesses of Reading to deliver these projects together for the future of the place.”

The initiative will be funded by combining £40 million from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport's Heritage High Street Fund, with £52 million from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Future High Street Fund.

A further £3 million will be provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a cultural programme to engage people in the life and history of their high streets.

The investment builds on the successful Heritage Action Zones programme, run by Historic England, and will turn empty and underused buildings into creative spaces, offices, retail outlets and housing to support wider regeneration in the 69 successful areas by attracting future commercial investment.

Historic England’s chief executive, Duncan Wilson said: “Our high streets are the beating hearts of our communities.

"Many have roots that go back hundreds of years.

"Their historic buildings and distinctive character tell the story of how our towns and cities have changed over time.

"They are places where people come together to socialise, shop, run businesses and be part of their local community, but now they face an uncertain future.

"Through physical improvements and cultural activities, we will work with partners to find new ways to regenerate our high streets.

"It is a challenge, but with our experience and track record, as well as the knowledge and passion of local councils, businesses and community groups our historic high streets can be thriving social hubs once more."