BRADFORD and Keighley have been selected for a pioneering initiative to create new jobs and slash the number of empty shops.

They are among only 29 across the UK chosen to benefit from the first wave of the Business in the Community (BITC) scheme.

A partnership of some of the country’s leading high street names will help businesses work on an action plan of improvements.

Boots, the Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer and Santander are the founding members of the ‘Healthy High Streets’ venture.

Bradford's scheme will be implemented by Bradford Council's city centre team with the support of Marks & Spencer, which will be one of the cornerstore retailers in the under-construction Westfield Broadway shopping centre.

Nationally, the aim is to create 3,000 jobs, increase footfall by ten per cent and reduce empty property units by a fifth during a three-year period.

Overfall, only 100 cities and towns will be be selected.

Keighley town centre manager, Philip Smith said: “We submitted our application in May and were absolutely delighted to be chosen.

“This is a very exciting time for the town. To have nationally-recognised businesses pooling their considerable resources and expertise to look at how they can help improve what Keighley provides is a fantastic opportunity.

“We have 200 members within Keighley Town Centre Association who work closely together, and to have large businesses giving their input from a different angle can only be a good thing.

“It’s the first time the big businesses have got their heads together in this way to look at what they might be able to do with their combined expertise.”

Mr Smith said initial discussions had already taken place and more talks are ongoing.

An action plan will then be drawn-up and options considered.

“This can only benefit the association and add an extra tier to what we are able to do,” added Mr Smith.

“And it’s not just about retailers. It also covers the commercial sector, and BITC will be working at getting other nationals on board.

“Although it is an initial three-year scheme, once plans are in place, the benefits will continue.”

BITC is being supported in the campaign by the Department of Community and Local Governments, Future High Streets Forum and the Prince’s Foundation for Building in the Community.

Mr Smith said a bid is also currently being drawn up to enter Cavendish Street in a High Street of the Year awards scheme, which would help promote the retailers and put it them line for a share of £50,000 in prize money and support from the Future High Streets Forum sponsors.