High Streets to share £1.2m funding

Town centre The government says High Streets must become "a destination" to rival out-of-town shopping centres

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Twelve English High Streets - from Cornwall to Northumberland - will share a £1.2m pot of government cash to rejuvenate shopping areas.

"Town teams" in areas including Liskeard and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea will try out ideas proposed by retail guru Mary Portas in her High Street review.

Portas, who will make a TV programme about the 12, said she was "deeply touched" by the "creativity" of bids.

Fifteen more "Portas pilot" areas will be selected later this year.

"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," Portas said.

Minister of State for Communities and Local Government Grant Shapps, meanwhile, said the competition had "captured the imagination of the nation with communities across the country uniting to support their High Streets".

The 12 'Portas pilot' areas

Mary Portas with David Cameron
  • Bedford - mentoring support for businesses
  • Croydon - transforming the Old Town market
  • Dartford - school for shopkeepers
  • Greater Bedminster - street art, street theatre
  • Liskeard - vibrant arts scene, guerrilla gardening
  • Margate - putting education and enjoyment first
  • Market Rasen - restoring market town look
  • Nelson - youth cafe, art and vintage market
  • Newbiggin-by-the-Sea - transport, pop-up shops
  • Stockport - Markets and Underbanks revamp
  • Stockton-on-Tees - Globe Theatre entertainment
  • Wolverhampton - modern day town criers

He said "the winners are going to get the focus and attention from Mary Portas herself and from me as the government minister".

Portas - star of TV shows such as Mary Queen of Shops - would meet all the winning bidders and, along with his department, offer advice, Mr Shapps added.

He said the High Street must work hard to compete with out-of-town shopping centres and the internet.

"To make towns work, they're going to have to offer something different and interesting, something that the internet can't provide.

"That's obviously human contact - a place to go and meet, a place where there are other interesting activities other than just shopping."

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said there was much work to be done.

"This is money being given to twelve out of 371 towns that applied to it, this is not going to be a magic bullet for solving this and we must remember that it's a pilot.

"This is about trying something out to achieve something and you have to be positive about this. They have to approach it positively to try and make a change."

Grant Shapps: "Winners will be asked to help others"

Bedford, in Bedfordshire, Croydon, in London, and Bedminster, in Bristol, as well as Dartford and Margate - both in Kent - were also among successful towns chosen from more than 370 applications.

Market Rasen, in Lincolnshire, Nelson, in Lancashire, Stockport, in Greater Manchester, Stockton-on-Tees, in County Durham, and Wolverhampton, in the West Midlands, have also been selected.

The introduction of a young person's cafe, sports activities and an art and vintage market in Nelson as well as a "school for shopkeepers" in Dartford are among examples of how different towns aim to put money to use.

Were town centres better before?

A provincial High Street in the 1970s was a recognisable, easily navigable space. Having greater choice has taken us out of that comfort zone. It's like growing up and having to cook for yourself instead of having your mum put a plate of fish fingers and a bowl of Angel Delight in front of you every evening.

The Wolverhampton town team will stage a Dragons' Den-style competition for local entrepreneurs while a creative arts complex, outdoor screening and new parking strategy are planned for Stockport.

The successful towns will also receive support and advice from Ms Portas and other retail experts.

The deadline for the next round of pilot applications from town teams - made up of councillors, landlords, business owners and MPs - is 30 June.

In March, the government announced it had accepted "virtually all" 28 recommendations made in the report it commissioned from Portas on how best to revive the High Street.

They included making parking more affordable and disincentives for landlords who left shops empty.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    I agree so much with Chazz - more so in places like Coventry - please buy our cars but do not bring them shopping in Coventry - what hypocrisy and what a result - I think we are about the 10th largest city and something like the 52nd 'most popular' shopping venue - enough said?

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Once the global economic mega-crash happens these town centres will regenerate automatically as places to do barter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Everyone knows what the answer is, but nobody will implement it. Why? Because greedy local government will lose out. Alternative, engage some nobodies to try to pull the wool over our eyes with this kind of nonsense.

    Everywhere you look, this country is just slowly dying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    There appears to be a direct correlation between the decline of the high street and the rise in reach, power, expense and staffing of local authorities. The latter act as a leech on retail & business activity plus the populations generally which they exist to 'serve'. So how about a mass slash & burn of local authorities back to useful/essential only, removing hordes of petty fascists at a stroke?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    What a waste of money high streets are dead because shopping online is cheaper, more choice no traffic to get through and then find you have to find a parking space. let high streets die

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Repeatedly throughout the 82 messages already posted, the nail has been hit on the head. If councils want economic activity in town centres, they need to stop preventing people from travelling there. FREE parking is essential, as is end of the "Gotcha!" mentality of councils when it comes to cars. If my car isn't welcome, why is my money welcome?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    1.2 billion that's more like it. As a previous comment goes online shopping is the key, why would you want to spend all day fighting your way through the shops to find what your looking for when you can sit at home in comfort and peruse just about any item on the planet that's for sale and have it delivered to your house cheaper than if you managed to find it in a high street shop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    While the councils were engaged in their ideologically driven war against motorists with their speed humps, traffic calming, parking wardens, and exorbitant parking charges – they overlooked the fact that customers drive cars.

    Every anti-car measure is also an anti-customer measure. Councils need to treat motorists as customers instead of unwelcome invaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    My high street is full of charity shops, hippy organic tea shops and banks. Hardly anywhere I'm going to want to go shopping now is it? The idea of a busy high street is dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    @60 face facts - anybody with money to spend probably has a car.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Ooooh that sounds enough...? High streets will mainly die, apart from Historic Cities like London, York and Edinburgh, this is a PR stunt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Taking Liskeard as an example it has an out of town retail park with an ever expanding Morrisons. In town shops have closed because of this competition. A Local Co_op shut a few months back. This is PR fluff and a complete waste of time. As for Guerilla gardening I can't recall many open spaces! Typical of Grant Shapps another trendy posh boy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Where possible houses that were converted into shops, should be converted back into housing stock and people should start living in towns again. This would created a more vibrant and viable town centre and give shops local customers. £1.2M between twelve towns is pointless, it would have been better spent on pot-holes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Shapps is a mupppet and Mary Portas is a celebrity nobody.
    Transparent foolhardy inappropriate approach=waste of public money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Just a point, Mary Portas started in retail as a window dresser, and now, on behalf of the government, she's STILL a window dresser.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Have just returned from our local town. Wondered why the car-park was still half-empty at 10 am on a Saturday, only to discover that parking charges have risen from 70p for an hour to £1.00 for an hour - a rise of around 40 per cent. If that's not going to help put people off from shopping in the town centre, what will? Some local councils seem hellbent on destroying the towns they 'represent'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    What a load of tosh! Retailers are supposed to make money by selling things to customers, not from government hand-outs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    We are two steps behind anyway. High Streets and daily shopping lost out to out of town shopping centres and weekly shops, which in turn are losing out to the convenience, low prices and choice of the internet. Maybe the next generation will be nostalgic for lost Tesco memories?

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Bedminster in Bristol is sandwiched betwen two areas which are really quite affluent. It has several expensive developments in it. There are poor areas around it, Knowle West and Hartcliffe but will they get the money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Its not just business rates, parking costs, out of town shopping that has done for town centres. It is largely to do with supermarkets and the planners who have allowed them to be built too close to town centres. Once you've gone round the supermarket why would you on to the town centre for the butcher, the baker, the green grocer, the news agent etc etc?


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