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:
Croydon, Greater London
Market Rasen, Lincolnshire
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
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
Loughborough, who plan to involve students from Loughborough University to
reinvigorate their high street and encourage budding business owners to consider setting
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 cafe 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
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.