Reviving The Country’s High Streets

Earlier this year the Parliamentary Yearbook reported on the results of the Government’s competition to select 12 towns to become ‘Portas Pilots’. A further 15 towns have now been selected to benefit from funding to help turn around their “unloved and unused” high streets. High Street regeneration will form part of a major feature on communities in the next edition

On 4th February this year, Mary Portas and Local Government Minister Grant Shapps launched the competition to choose 12 towns to become ‘Portas Pilots’. Mr Shapps has offered the cash incentive to those towns that come up with the best High Street blueprints in a move that fulfils the first and last recommendations of Mary Portas’ High Streets Review, commissioned by the Prime Minister and published before Christmas.

Then on 26th May the 12 winning bids were announced:

  • Bedford, Bedfordshire
  • Croydon, Greater London
  • Dartford, Kent
  • Bedminster, Bristol
  • Liskeard, Cornwall
  • Margate, Kent
  • Market Rasen, Lincolnshire
  • Nelson, Lancashire
  • Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland
  • Stockport, Greater Manchester
  • Stockton on Tees, Teesside
  • Wolverhampton, West Midlands

The competition to become a pilot received an overwhelming response, with over 370 applications from across the country. Mr Shapps said unsuccessful applicants should not despair – the quality of the bids has been so high that he was launching a second round of the competition, which will see additional pilots announced by the end of July. The Greater London Authority is also funding a further 3 which takes the total to 15.

Mr Shapps issued a call to MPs from the 392 Town Teams not chosen, to come forward and sign a national pledge to become a Town Team Partner – enabling access to a package of support to their own town. The package of support is worth £5.5million nationwide.

No high street left behind

Those that sign up to become Town Team Partners will receive backing from a multi-million pound support programme to help put elements of their plans into action. But they will also have the opportunity to:

  • Get access to events, workshops and seminars across the country addressing key challenges facing struggling town centres;
  • Receive direct mentoring support and visits from experts with a range of relevant backgrounds;
  • Directly benefit from the experience of the 27 Portas Pilots;
  • Meet regularly with town teams across the country to share their experiences and lessons learned; and
  • Join an online community to receive tips and advice from retail experts

The Town Team Partners will also benefit from a new web-based encyclopaedia – 100 Ways to Help the High Street, which will be hosted and run by the Association of Town Centre Management. The ATCM will also work with the areas selected as Town Team Partners to help them progress their proposals.

Business in the Community will also marshal support from businesses, retailers and trade bodies both for the Town Team Partners and the 27 Portas Pilots.

Further details will be announced later this year.

This additional package of support forms part of a wider response to Mary Portas’s Review, which was published last December. All town teams from across the country will also be able to bid for a £1million Future High Street X-Fund to reward the most effective and creative schemes to encourage people back to the town centres in 2013, and a £500,000 fund to help access set-up loans for new Business Improvement Districts.

Grant Shapps said:

“Today I’d like to congratulate the 15 town teams that, in the face of stiff competition, have been selected to be the next Portas Pilots. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’m determined that we don’t turn our backs on the other 392 Town Teams who put their plans forward to revive their high streets.

“That’s why I’m calling on these communities, led by their MPs, to put themselves forward once again to become Town Team Partners. Each one that applies will benefit from a package of support to refine their plans and get the help and advice they need to bring their town centres back to life.

“I don’t want to lose the incredible momentum and I want to know that no town is left behind after such an enthusiastic and imaginative response to Mary Portas’s review. So alongside the 27 Portas Pilots across the country, these Town Team Partners will also be able to revive their high streets and make them the beating hearts of their communities once again.”

Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Association of Town Centre Management, said:

“The response to the challenge created by the government’s response to the Mary Portas report from communities in towns and cities across England was enormous. It is terrific to see the government acknowledging that groundswell of activity in such a positive way.

“To enhance this support ATCM is launching a new web based encyclopedia – 100 Ways to Help the High Street – which will be available to all areas and Town Teams.

“We look forward to taking the same collegiate approach to working with all the Portas Pilot and Town Team Partner towns that we have done in hundreds of towns and cities across the UK and Ireland for many years.”

Second Round Winners

Mr Shapps today confirmed 15 new Portas Pilots, taking the total to 27.

Of these, three have been selected by the Mayor of London. Recognising how this initiative complements his efforts to regenerate the capital’s high streets Boris Johnson has joined forces with Mr Shapps and is investing £300,000 to fund these additional pilots.

The new 15 are:

  • Ashford, whose Town Team will use its local market to attract people back to the high street by offering new stall-holders the opportunity to have a ‘stall for a tenner’;
  • Berwick, who will work with local builders and other businesses to give their high street a much-needed facelift;
  • Braintree, who will provide mentoring support to the high number of independent shops in the area;
  • Brighton (London Road), who will encourage retailers to work together to tackle vandalism and crime to help realise the area’s full potential;
  • Hatfield, who will look beyond retail to provide community and event facilities to encourage more visitors to the high street;
  • Leamington (Old Town), who plan to focus their efforts on tackling the high vacancy rate in the high street and encourage new businesses to the area;
  • Liverpool (Lodge Lane), who will help aspiring young entrepreneurs in the community by offering a mentoring service;
  • Waterloo – Lower Marsh and the Cut (London Borough of Lambeth), who plan to set up satellite markets and tackle the high number of empty shops in the area;
  • Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham (London Borough of Lewisham), who plan to renovate 12 empty premises and improve signage in the local area;
  • Chrisp Street, Watney Market, Roman Road (London Borough of Tower Hamlets), who will exploit their high visitor numbers to run a series of public information programmes;
  • Loughborough, who plan to involve students from Loughborough University to reinvigorate their high street and encourage budding business owners to consider setting up locally;
  • Lowestoft, who will create a Town ‘group’ discount scheme to attract local people, and establish a mentoring scheme in conjunction with schools, colleges and retailers;
  • Morecambe, who will set up a community café to provide advice and support for those looking to take up business opportunities;
  • Rotherham, who will launch a publicity campaign to highlight the unique nature of the high street and encourage people to ‘shop local’; and
  • Tiverton, who plan to improve parking facilities to encourage more visitors and tourists to the town centre

Of these, the three in London will receive funding from the Greater London Authority.

These 15 pilots will now receive:

  • A share of £1.5 million to make their ideas a reality;
  • A dedicated contact point in Government to provide advice and support to encourage greater local business growth;
  • Free support from retail industry giants led by Boots, as well as Mary Portas’s team; and
  • Opportunities to meet and discuss lessons learned and experiences with fellow Portas Pilots

Mary Portas said:

“I am thrilled that communities up and down the country have looked beyond the money and have been mobilised to create ‘town teams’ and demand more for their high streets. Whilst I shall continue to fight for the other 27 ‘recommendations’ in my Review am looking forward to seeing fifteen more British towns putting their plans into action”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:

“Driving growth and creating jobs through the rejuvenation of London’s high streets is at the heart of my mayoralty and the Portas pilot initiative is a fantastic way to help us achieve this.

“Through our regeneration drive we have already started reversing the decay of our high streets that had been allowed set in through long-term underinvestment.

“The selected pilots have been chosen for their innovative approach and commitment to community partnerships. We will work closely with them and ensure their successful ideas are replicated across other towns in London and the UK. I strongly believe the regeneration of High streets will help lead the way in steering our town centres out of recession and get these vital economic hubs booming again.”

We shall be adding to the article as there are further developments and any changes to the plans will be reflected in the content. The full report will be published in print and online in the next edition of the Parliamentary Year book.

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About Parliamentary Yearbook

The Parliamentary Yearbook is a division of Blakes Media who have been publishing the definitive Parliamentary Yearbook for over 40 years; this has also been a successful on-line resource for many years. The Parliamentary Yearbook has three distinct functions: (i) To provide information on topical political, social and business issues to clients of the Parliamentary Yearbook and to members of the public, (ii) To carry out research into such aspects of public and business life that may be of interest to a wider audience for inclusion in reports and features within the Parliamentary Yearbook, and (iii) To assess the value of the publication to the potential readership in specific market sectors and ensure that the publication reaches the best possible target audience. If we can provide assistance to you please do not hesitate to contact the Parliamentary Yearbook.
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