Shapps: Portas Pilots to kick-start high street renaissance

From Stockport to Margate, successful pilots will be helped to implement their ideas to rejuvenate the town centre, as well as test out the measures in Mary Portas’s High Street Review.

First round winners

The first 12 Portas Pilot towns are:

Bedford, Bedfordshire – offering mentoring support for High Street businesses and community use of empty properties.
Croydon, Greater London – transforming the riot-stricken area’s historic Old Town market into a thriving market, food and cultural quarter.
Dartford, Kent – opening up central spaces for use by classes and clubs, from the Scouts to Slimming World and starting a ‘school for shopkeepers’.
Bedminster, Bristol – putting Bedminster on the map for Street Art and Street Theatre. A bicycle rickshaw service and a review of parking will also tackle the traffic environment.
Liskeard, Cornwall – competing against the edge of town supermarket with a vibrant arts scene, guerrilla gardening and yarn bombing to inject fun back into the town centre.
Margate, Kent – putting education and enjoyment at the heart of the town centre’s transformation with courses, ‘job club’ services and pop up shops.
Market Rasen, Lincolnshire – drawing customers in by restoring the market town look and feel, advertising free parking and mentoring new businesses.
Nelson, Lancashire – attracting local students with a young persons café, sports activities, and a new art and vintage market.
Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland – better branding of the town to draw people in, improving local transport and hosting pop up shops.
Stockport, Greater Manchester – realising the character and potential of the Markets and Underbanks area with a creative arts complex, outdoor screenings, a new parking strategy and street champions.
Stockton on Tees, Teeside – live entertainment at the Globe Theatre to boost the evening leisure economy alongside specialist High Street and evening markets.
Wolverhampton, West Midlands – bringing the city will to life with modern day town criers and on-street performers and a ‘dragon’s den’ style competition to support local entrepreneurs.

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 12 additional pilots announced by the end of July. The Greater London Authority are also funding a further 3 which takes the total to 15.
 
Mr Shapps said there was no need for unsuccessful applicants to reapply, but they could sharpen up their bids if they wished and submit them again by 30 June, which was also the deadline for new town teams to apply.
 
The Minister said it was clear that Mary Portas’s review into the High Street was the "catalyst communities craved" to get together and secure the future of their town centres.
 
Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said:

"The best local high streets offer more than simply shopping – they are the beating heart of their neighbourhoods: places to meet, work, relax and come together as a community. It’s why this competition to become a Portas Pilot has captured the imagination of the nation, with communities across the country uniting to support their high streets.
 
"The quality and sheer number of applications has been overwhelming – 12 winning bids now have the chance receive expert advice and financial support, but I believe more towns deserve to be selected. So today I can announce a second round of the competition will see 15 more town centres benefit from this unique opportunity. Together these pilots can be the vanguard of a high street revolution, and others can look to their example to kick start a renaissance of our town centres."
 
Mary Portas said:

"I’ve been deeply touched by both the quality and creativity of the bids and the momentum Britain’s first town teams have generated in just a few short weeks.
 
"It is now clearer to me than ever that Britain wants its town centres revitalised and the energy and accountability for that needs to rest with the people who live and do business there. My sincere congratulations to everyone who entered."
 
The 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. So I’m looking forward to receiving some innovative ideas which will help lead the way in steering London out of recession and get these vital economic centres booming again."
 
Peter Drummond, President, British Council of Shopping Centres said:

"With high street pilots being such a central plank to Mary Portas’s recommendations to Government, today’s announcement of the winning Town Teams is fantastic news. Local communities from up and down the country have submitted some incredibly innovative ideas designed to boost struggling high streets, and the enthusiasm demonstrated is to be applauded. We look forward to working closely with them in delivering these ambitious plans, providing free mentoring from within our membership and drawing upon the vast experience therein to maximise what can be achieved. However, importantly we consider this the first step in what should be a crucial ongoing initiative for Britain – both in the context of local community and the wider economy."
 
Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Association of Town Centre Management, said:

"The competition to be one of the first 12 Portas Pilots has galvanised activity across England focused on improving High Streets. It is a tribute to the resilience of the British public that so many people are willingly volunteering their time, energy and imagination towards saving and improving their own town centre neighbourhoods at the present time. The ATCM looks forward to working with and assisting all the applicants, not just the winners, during the months that lie ahead."
 
Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said:

"Landlords are as committed as anyone to finding a solution to our struggling high streets and creating vibrant town centres, and we welcome the announcement of the twelve Portas Pilots.
 
"Landlords are experts in the fields of property management, place making and marketing, they have a wealth of professional experience that the Pilots can access. We want to give this positive initiative the best possible chance of success and breathe life into struggling high streets."

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