A PILOT scheme to help upgrade properties in the historic heart of the city aims to boost visitor numbers.

It is hoped the work will also attract more customers and local residents and lead to further investment.

The city council's independent retail fund will give tenants and owners of shops on Saltmarket and St Andrew's Street access to the cash they need to help with necessary repairs and the upkeep of their premises.

It was set up because of the impact well-maintained shop fronts can have in helping local ­areas thrive.

Council leader Gordon Matheson said: "Glasgow is the top retail ­destination in the United Kingdom outside of London and the council is committed to investing in local businesses.

"Saltmarket is one of the oldest parts of the city with its own distinct character and it is important we continue the ­regeneration that has already taken place here.

"I am pleased to ­announce the launch of this pilot project as we look to assess new opportunities to make Glasgow the most innovative and progressive city ­centre in Europe."

The scheme will be undertaken in partnership with council arm's length body City Property and letting agency Ryden. They will work with owners and tenants to cost, schedule, monitor and manage improvement works.

Pauline Barclay, interim managing director of City Property, said: "We will provide direct support for participants in the pilot throughout the whole process, from outlining costs to managing works."

For further details of the fund and information on how to apply, go to www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?article id=11972

vivienne.nicoll@ eveningtimes.co.uk