Home chevron_right About Middlesbrough chevron_right Improving Middlesbrough chevron_right Future High Street Fund

Future High Street Fund

The Future High Street Fund (FHSF) is a government programme supporting 72 areas in England to enhance their local economy and deliver ambitious high street regeneration plans. The programme was launched in December 2018, with 15 councils getting funding in the first phase. Middlesbrough Council was awarded £14.1m in the second phase, which was announced in March 2021.

We see a bright future for our high street. So our FHSF programme focusses on rebalancing the economic mix and diversifying floor space for residential, commercial, and leisure uses. This will create a more balanced and attractive offer to support and enhance our town centre.

The vision is based on building a new urban community in the heart of the town, by bringing more people to live and work in central Middlesbrough. Our £14.1m funding will be used for the following schemes:

  • development of residential property
  • adaptations to transport services and improving safety and security of town centre areas
  • cultural animation and experiences
  • grant funding for businesses to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
  • transformation of Captain Cook Square for leisure use

Funding is geographically restricted (in line with approved FHSF programme guidance) to Middlesbrough town centre.

More information is available on the Future High Streets Fund page on GOV.UK.

Captain Cook Square Leisure Hub



Located in the heart of Middlesbrough town centre, the Captain Cook Square Leisure Hub is transforming 37,100 sqm of retail space into a leisure destination serving the whole of the Tees Valley.

With bus, train, and car parking facilities on the doorstep, the Hub can be accessed with ease from anywhere in Teesside.

The Leisure Hub will offer a wide range of facilities including bowling, e-sports, a cinema, and restaurants.

Project information


We identified a need to revitalise the town centre and address the oversupply of retail space. One shopping centre with a high number of vacant retail units was Captain Cook Square shopping centre. The decline in the retail market had made it an unviable place for private sector investment in traditional retail uses.

In 2019, we purchased the shopping centre with capital funding. The aim was to have the direct control needed to repurpose the shopping centre into a leisure hub, using £9.5 million of Future High Street Funding.

The project involves work to repurpose or remodel the existing units, improve the physical appearance of the shopping centre, and incentivise leisure operators to invest and locate in Middlesbrough.

To date, four major operators have taken out formal lease agreements.


  • Remodelling / beautification works complete - December 2022
  • Esports opens for business - April 2023
  • Level X commences operations - February 2023
  • Remaining lease holders open from summer 2023

Church House residential conversion



Changing the way our town centre is used, to create communities and promote urban living, is a critical part of renewing our high street. New residents in the area will increase footfall and reduce antisocial behaviour as the town centre will be busy throughout the day and evening.

They will also support town centre shops and restaurants, and provide new workers for growing businesses and the professional services market.

Church House, which is one of the most prominent structures on Middlesbrough’s skyline, has been vacant for around a decade. This project will renovate the derelict property into modern apartments in the heart of Middlesbrough.

Project information


Church House will be converted into 86 modern apartment units. A Future High Streets Fund investment of around £1.4m will be matched with over £10m of private investment for the project. This will include ground floor retail space and work to significantly improve the unattractive exterior of the building.

The grant is awarded on the basis that the apartments will be available for rent, and not used exclusively as student accommodation.


  • Final design - December 2022
  • Contracts agreed - February 2023
  • Work begins on site - March 2023
  • Work completed - May 2024
  • First apartments to be let - May 2024

Grant funding



The aim of the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) is to renew and reshape town centres and high streets to drive growth, improve experience, and ensure future sustainability. Middlesbrough successfully applied for £14.1m to transform the town centre.

To support this transformation, public funding and council investment is needed to encourage new leisure uses to come to Middlesbrough and build a new housing market from scratch. This will require an element of subsidy - one-off investment to support the capital outlay of new businesses entering the market. In each case, the minimum possible amount of subsidy required to deliver the required transformation will be made available to each new operator.

The following section contains information to ensure that we comply with subsidy control transparency requirements as part of the FHSF funding requirements.

Subsidy control transparency


To achieve the overall vision for Captain Cook Square it is necessary to attract premium leisure and hospitality businesses that will change the perception of this area, turning it into a destination for visitors. The council has agreed a package of support which enables a viable investment proposition for leisure operators to locate to the town.

The amount of subsidy being offered has been based upon an assessment of need. The council and its agent (Praxis) have thoroughly explored the funding that is necessary to secure the location of leisure operators and taken steps to ensure this is not excessive - in other words, the minimum required to achieve the required transformation to the market.

Each operator's requirements will be taken on an individual basis, using examples of other sites and costs of material and equipment. This will be used to formulate the level of grant offered.

The financial support is limited to capital investment which is necessary for the tenant business to establish. Given wider market issues, the COVID-19 legacy, and inflationary pressures which are impacting discretionary incomes, the support is assessed by commercial advisors (Praxis) as proportionate with the market dynamics and risks associated with entering a new market in Middlesbrough.

The incentives offered to tenants by Middlesbrough Council will come in the form of direct capital grants or incentives to enable investment in the new business proposal. This will not amount to ongoing support of income and services, and will only adopt a one-off capital contribution. The business is expected to invest itself and sustain the business model in perpetuity.

As with the Leisure Hub, Middlesbrough town centre has an untested market for apartment living. A subsidy is therefore being offered to the Church House development based upon an assessment of need. The council have thoroughly explored the funding that is necessary to develop the apartments and taken steps to ensure this is not excessive, providing the minimum required to achieve the required transformation.

The FHSF project commenced in the financial year 2021/2022 and will cease on 31 March 2024. All project expenditure must be defrayed by the end of March 2024, although project outputs and final delivery can extend beyond this period.