The Government has unveiled a £3m fund to help regenerate high streets which have been hit by the recession.

The fund will be shared between some of England’s hardest-hit areas to allow councils to replace boarded up shops with projects such as art galleries or community learning centres.

57 local authorities have been given grants worth more than £50,000 each to help prevent their high streets becoming ghost towns.

Communities Secretary John Denham said: “We know that the downturn has really hurt high streets in areas of high deprivation across England.

“Those councils will now be able to use our funding to come up with their own creative ideas to transform their boarded-up shops into something useful like a learning centre, meeting place for local people or showroom for local artists.

“There is no need to see unused shops on our high streets going to waste, especially when we know that it doesn’t take a lot to turn a vacant shop into something beneficial for the community.”

Fashion designer Wayne Hemingway is involved in a scheme in Gateshead which will see an empty building turned into a business space for local creative industries.

He said: “This is about giving the creative community a helping hand and putting empty units to good use. It has the potential to attract leaders and entrepreneurs to Gateshead and give the local economy a boost.”

In April, the Government set out a series of measures aimed at making it easier for local groups to take over vacant stores. They included speeded-up planning procedures, extra powers for local councils to intervene and standard short-term leases.