Empty shop units in a run-down Watford street could be given a new virtual lease of life, with the installation of fake shop fronts.

Watford Borough Council is considering the idea in Queen’s Road, where an influential residents’ action group is fighting a campaign to reinvigorate a once thriving shopping precinct.

The proposed window dressing scheme, supported by the Queens Community Action Group, would see large graphic hoardings placed at the front of business premises, with each design suggesting various retail uses for the space behind.

Helen Lynch, chairman of the Queen’s Community Action Group, said the idea, which has enjoyed success in other parts of the country, would have two positive effects: to improve the look of the road and encourage new traders to set up shop..

Mrs Lynch, who is standing for election in next month’s Central Ward by-election, said: “It will be as if you are looking into a real shop window, with colourful flowers for a florist or fruit for a green grocer.

“The idea is that if you walk past a green grocer you might think ‘I could open a green grocers there.' But we also want to make it a more attractive place to walk through. It’s a bit like when you are looking to buy a house and it is nicely painted inside – it creates a better impression than if it looks un-loved.”

The facades, which will cost about £1,000 each, will be supplied to landlords in return for them tidying up the front of their properties. A number of possible designs have been discussed, including a florist, greengrocer, chocolate shop and bakery.

A fund of £5,000 has been set aside by the council and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Similar schemes have been tried by local authorities elsewhere in the country, with varying results. In Rochdale, Lancashire, some £200,000 was spent on one dilapidated street, much to the ire of some residents who describe the scheme as a waste of money.

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