COUNCIL bosses are investigating a £675m scheme to transform high streets into vibrant community hubs.

The Future High Streets Fund was launched on Boxing Day, to help local authorities revitalise town centres which will include plans to invest in properties and improve transport links.

Converting retail units into new homes will also be considered by the fund.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced the fund in October's budget after receiving interim recommendations from chairman of the Town Centres Expert Panel Sir John Timpson.

The first phase of the fund calls for councils to submit Expressions of Interest, which has a deadline of midnight on March 22.

There will then be an announcement on places moving forward to Phase 2 this summer.

Becca Heron, director of economy and skills at Wigan Council said: “As the details for this specific fund only came out very recently, we are currently looking into the guidelines and criteria to determine what our bid, should we be eligible to make one, will focus on.

“The future of our high streets is a key priority and we will always look into external funding and investment opportunities that can help deliver our ambitions to support the local economy to thrive.”

Councils bidding for the fund will be supported by the High Streets Task Force, which will be established this year and will aid local authorities.

Up to £55m of the fund has also been allocated to support the regeneration of "heritage high streets".

Bids will help to restore historic high street properties for new work spaces or cultural venues.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “We all know high streets are changing, we can’t hide from this reality.

"But we’re determined to ensure they continue sit at the heart of our communities for generations to come.

“To do this we have to support investment in infrastructure, boosting local economies and ensuring people are able to get the most out of their local high streets.

"Empowering leaders on the ground is key too – they best understand the challenges facing their areas.

“Our Future High Streets Fund will drive forward this change, transforming our town centres into the thriving community hubs of the future.”