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 163.

    So all the money is to be spent in England - English devolution - here you go...

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    One word is sorely missing from this discussion: Supermarket.

    While online shopping continues to grow it is the supermarket that has done the most damage to the 'high street' so far. The tax and legal burden of owning a small business is disproportionately large. If we really care about these small business then give them a little room to breathe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Tackle rates: In France I believe shops are rates free if the owner lives on the premises. Having the owners live over their shops revitalises town centres with something other than drunks at night.
    Tackle transport: Parking is, of course, essential.
    Tackle Rents: charge full business rates for empty premises

  • Comment number 160.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    I wish it well, but still think it is money wasted - like putting a minnow into shark infested waters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Was this £1.2 Billion oh no! only £1.2 million ,this will do one town ! This Portas isnt one of her companies heavily involved in out of town shopping ! ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    The only shops in our high street are charity shops. If I stop to buy anything I will need to try it on. By the time get back to the car the warden has put a ticket on my car. Some bargain that was!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Again the government showing inability to prioritise , why can we only afford 1.2 m to rejuvenate the UK high streets yet we can find millions/billions for overseas development aid. Not to mention the hundreds millions going into the EU coffers as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    spend the money on free bus services into thetowns

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Greed has been the death of the High Street:

    1. Parking is ridiculously expensive.
    2. Petrol is ridiculously expensive.
    3. Public Transport ridiculously expensive.
    4. Most shops are ridiculously expensive.

    Still there are many empty shops and office in Kingston, Surrey.well done to all the Tory voters for allowing this to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Ah, yes, the high street... that'll be the place that opens when I go to work, and shuts up when I finish work. Opening hours that are clearly targetted at pensioners, yummy mummies, and the (sadly) unemployed strike me, in the age of internet retail, to be moronic in the extreme. Why do I buy most of my stuff online? Because it's "open".

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Joe from the US here, feeling sorry for you Brits. Not sure who your government is working for, but same as ours, it's definitely not the average citizen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I agree with the majority, there's a reason why high streets are failing & it's because there is a new, better, more convenient alternative. Throwing money at the issue won't help - it's called evolution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    £1.2 million - you have to be joking surely. Ten times this might make some difference but I'm afraid this is like playing with deckchairs on the Titanic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.


    What is needed is sums of money on a par with QE given to banks being returned to those who's money it actually is so they can spend.
    Change the record mate. How big was the cheque that you personally wrote to bail out the banks? You have to pay tax, so haven't got any less money to spend!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    We didnt need Queen Mary to tell us what was wrong with High Streets. Parking charges, local rates, opening hours, pedestrian zones, retail parks, mega stores, t'internet, change of work/life balance. She wont convert me, its t'interent all the way - vast array of stock choice, delivered to my door, its always open and I never "shop till I drop" as Im sitting on my couch already! Good luck to her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    PS - I prefer to shop online. Cheaper and its delivered to my door and not using my fuel.

    Ministers and MP's seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that over £1.30 a litre is killing the workers who need their cars to get to work. And over 60% of that cost of a litre goes to the Govt as tax and duty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Greater Bedminster? Where's that, this Bristolian asks. Guess it means the money is actually going to trendy Southville.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    This is like someone twitching an eyebrow close to where a murder is being done, and then later claiming that they took action to stop it. The amount of money given to the banks in QE, would have been better off being invested in this for more city centres and high streets as well as reducing business rates for small shops on high streets and short-stay free car parks. This would have helped more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    There is something fundamentally wrong us as a society when we would rather chose a bland and forgettable consumer experience on internet or a retail park because of our car.

    SO true and so sad that we are prepared to put up bland rubbish from expensive supermarkets just so we can park the wretched car for nothing. As for the internet - sterile and lifeless.


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