Five towns across Greater Manchester could get up to £25 million each to reinvigorate their high streets.
Stockport, Oldham, Wigan, Stretford and Farnworth have all made the final 50 of towns picked to go through to the second phase of the Future High Streets Fund.
The £625 million national project, which is being funded by the government, is designed to make town centres ‘fit for the future’.
The cash could be used to improve transport and access into centres as well as converting shops into new homes, according to Westminster.
Prime Minister Theresa May said that the fund recognised that high streets lie at the ‘heart of local communities’.
The successful bids means that the five town halls will now receive a grant of up to £150k to help develop a full business case.
But other boroughs who also bid for the cash have not been given an opportunity to transform their struggling towns.
Stalybridge and Hyde were among the towns put forward that didn’t make the shortlist.
Tameside council said they were ‘disappointed’ they were not successful, but added it had been a highly competitive process with more than 300 local authorities making at least one bid.
In Oldham bosses hope to ‘improve, adapt and modernise’ the town centre and believe they have submitted a strong bid.
If successful the money will go towards the new masterplan, which aims to offer a mix of employment, homes, culture, leisure and heritage attractions, as well as building the night time economy.
Council leader Sean Fielding said they have to adapt if the town centre is to compete with the ease of shopping and banking online.
“Our town centre will always have shops but people now want a bit more – something to visit, see or do that they can’t just do with a click or a swipe on a screen,” he said.
“They want a modern and vibrant place that has something for different members of the community.
“Competition will be fierce because retail’s decline is affecting every high street but if we’re successful we can use this money for important steps like addressing empty shop units, making the environment more attractive and improving the infrastructure.”
If it gets through, Trafford council want to use the money from their bid to invest in a long-term solution for the Essoldo cinema and Stretford Mall.
The cash would also be used to improve public spaces, pedestrian and cycle routes, and a mix-used development on Lacy Street.
This would open up access to the Bridgewater Canal, and see improved retail and food and drink facilities as well as providing new town centre homes, including affordable housing.
Councillor James Wright, Trafford’s lead on housing and regeneration, said they were ‘delighted’ to have reached the shortlist stage.
“Stretford deserves a great centre that is fit for the future,” he added.
“The fund represents a fantastic opportunity to help the town centre reach its full potential and support delivery of our masterplan.
“Residents, communities and businesses are at the heart of all we do and I am looking forward to working with our partners in developing business case.”
Stockport town hall had made a bid to the fund to create a ‘cultural, community and social hub’ in the heart of Merseyway.
Leaders say a successful bid would complement the investment plans for the shopping centre, which were approved by council members last November.
The plans for Merseyway are part of the authority’s £1billion investment programme aimed at transforming the town.
Coun David Meller, cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said they were ‘absolutely ecstatic’ to reach the second stage.
He added the borough’s ‘potential’ was already being realised through Stockport Exchange, Redrock and the growth around the market place.
“Everyone has worked incredibly hard on this bid, it is clear their pride, and passion for our town is paying off,” Coun Meller said.
“There’s still a lot to do – it will take time to get where we want to be and we need to bring people with us on our journey, so to speak.
“But if we’re successful in the next stage of the funding bid, we’ll be able to ensure our town centre is fit for future generations to enjoy and has something that appeals to everyone.”
Wigan’s proposals are based upon the vision in the ‘Wigan Strategic Regeneration Framework and involve plans to improve the leisure and cultural offer in the town centre.
But they also want to help existing shops to thrive, and make it an ‘attractive place to live and work’.
If successful, the money would add to add to their own £10m pot to kick-start regeneration schemes.
Wigan’s leader Coun David Molyneux, thanked the community for supporting their bid and helping them put a ‘compelling case’ to government.
He said: “If we get through this second phase this could be really exciting in contributing to the revitalisation of our town centre and the businesses who will benefit from any investment.”
If successful, Bolton council would use the cash to support the long-awaited Farnworth town centre masterplan was rubber stamped at a cabinet meeting on Monday.
The project aims for a new community and civil hub in the heart of the town, as well as improved public realm, redeveloping the market precinct and extending the leisure centre.
Initial terms have already been agreed with the current owner St Modwen to acquire the precinct.
Council leader David Greenhalgh said he was delighted Farnworth had been shortlisted, and described the masterplan as a ‘solid foundation’ for the town.
He said: “This is brilliant news for Farnworth and work will now begin into building the business case for funding.
“We want to deliver the changes that people across the borough want to see and I believe that the Future High Street Fund bid will bring us one step closer to regenerating our town centres.”
The next phase of the Future High Streets Fund will involve submission of a detailed business case over the next six to nine months.