High Street Challenge Fund

Dumfries and Galloway Council is doing all that it can to revitalise our high streets, build economic resilience and encourage vibrancy back into our communities.

High streets across the UK have been devastated as purchases have moved online. This natural market development has accelerated by the lockdowns caused by Covid. Retail is the second biggest employment sector in Dumfries and Galloway. There is nothing to suggest that our high streets will not continue to decline without public sector intervention. One of the effects of this decline is empty retail outlets at the core of our high streets. Empty units in the middle of a row of shops changes the whole feel of the town.


The High Street Challenge Fund is aimed at refreshing the high street of our towns by enabling aspiring applicants to start new businesses in the empty retail units at the core of our high streets. The objectives of the fund are to:

  • Fill empty shops at the core of our rural high streets so the high street feels successful and busy
  • Bring freshness to the high street with new local concepts
  • Give opportunity to new applicants
  • Engage the local community in the process

The Competition

The applicants will be able to compete to win a spot on the High Street in a "Dragons Den" style competition. Just email highstchallenge@dumgal.gov.uk if you are interested and we will be in contact. Support will be provided from the Council's Economic Development Team for anyone who needs help to hone their idea. All credible applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch their idea to the judging panel.

The winners will be judged against the following criteria

  • Freshness of the concept. How will it bring something new to the high street and hence the overall shopping experience?
  • Financial credibility. How likely is the venture to be a success?
  • Digital delivery. How will the business develop complimentary revenue streams through digital?
  • Permanent jobs created

The competition is not limited to traditional retail concepts but can include anything that has wide appeal to local residents and visitors, for example, visitor experience and food outlets. 

The judging panel will be able to award support up to two applications for each area: the Stewartry, Nithsdale, Annandale and Eskdale, Wigtownshire.  Any further budget available will go to the best applications from across the region. Awards will not be made to applications that are not judged to be viable. 


The High Street Challenge Fund creates a package that removes the barriers and creates the greatest chance of success for applicants to start businesses on our high streets. The objective is that the outlets will become an established enterprises for years to come.  

The support package worth could consist of the following elements:

  • 50% support, up to £6,000, for overhead costs over first year including rent
  • Statutory costs such as business rates are not eligible for support
  • Up to £4,000 support for start-up costs
  • Statutory costs, insurance, employee costs and stock are not eligible for support
  • One to one support from external consultants in the following areas
  • Digital, marketing, retail, financial planning, HR

NOTE: The support package will only be available for empty retail units in the high streets of the following towns defined as retail centres in the Local Development Plan:

Dumfries, Stranraer, Annan, Castle Douglas, Newton Stewart, Dalbeattie, Gretna, Kirkconnel/Kelloholm, Kirkcudbright, Langholm, Lochmaben, Lockerbie, Moffat, Sanquhar, Thornhill, Whithorn, Wigtown.

Please Note: Applicants cannot qualify both for the High Street Challenge Fund and the Enterprise Seed Fund.


  •  Launch 1 October 2021
  • Applications must be received by 5pm 12 November 2021
  • Judging panel awards by 26 November 2021
  • Applicants have until March 31 2022 to complete claims 
Page last updated: 05/10/2021
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