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A central commercial-pedestrian zone in Hanover, the capital of Lower Saxony

EU funding will revive Lower Saxony’s inner cities at the tail-end of the pandemic

EU funding will revive Lower Saxony’s inner cities at the tail-end of the pandemic

Minister Birgit Honé said one of the only conditions to the funds is spending them as quickly as possible

Today Birgit Honé, the Minister for Federal and European Affairs in Lower Saxony, announced a new 117 million euros of EU funding going towards the reinvigoration of inner cities in the state. Depending on the population, municipalities will receive between 345,000 and 1.8 million euros to boost the post-Covid recovery of the whole region.

The new programme will fund over 200 municipalities, including Sittensen, Baddeckestedt, Wittingen as well as Oldenburg, Hanover and Göttingen.

Economic stress on pedestrian zones

The pandemic has had a particularly pronounced effect on brick and mortar stores in traditionally pedestrian outdoor spaces. The reduced flow of people into commercial inner-city areas is largely due to social distancing measures, as they put pressure on consumers.

According to the Lower Saxony-Bremen Trade Association (Handelsverband Niedersachsen-Bremen), stores continue to have fewer customers than before the pandemic. Customers now tend to shop with a purpose and avoid walks in the crowded streets.

Furthermore, the boom of online retail brings even fewer customers to the inner city, as some people opt out of shopping in person altogether. This puts enormous pressure on brick and mortar stores to undergo rapid digitalisation and provide a logistics and customer support service, or risk severe reduction to their bottom line.

However, bike shops, hardware stores and outdoor sports retailers have done good business since the beginning of the pandemic, as more and more people are turning to home improvement and self-improvement.

Spend the money as fast as possible

One of the only conditions authorities in Lower Saxony have put on the projects applying for cash is to spend the money as quickly as possible. According to Hondé, municipalities need to spend the funds and turn them into working solutions within a year and a half. Otherwise, there are very few pre-conditions.

The Minister explained that possibilities range from developing a shopping app to the development and expansion of green spaces, subsidising small businesses to fill empty shops, to e-bike parking spaces.

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