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 283.

    Couple of comments - first of all Bedminster is not a town and secondly the high street has died, in part, due to the extortionate cost of parking a car. I always use out of town centres because it is is free. My high street consists of pound shops, phone shops, costa coffee and charity shops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Its aimed at maintaining consumerism for the purpose of growth. great for government but not the individual who doesnt benefit by being a consumer. Chichester is a ten min drive from my village and has a thriving shopping centre....havnt been here for over a year though and that was to get new phone contract. Because im not interested in spending my hard earned money!i stick to local grocers etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    1.2m - hardly enough to scrap the used gum off the pavements. Besides, who wants to venture down streets of shops selling nothing but imported stuff. If shops were interested in their own futures perhaps they should start to champion locally made stuff and ensure money stays within our economy. But then that does depend on a similar attitude from the Brit public who are notoriously dim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    A major change is required, laws need to be abolished, parking needs to be free, pavements need to be trolly friendly (trollys available), cover the streets over, eating and drinking establishments should be included, cheaper alcahol (with antisocial laws enforced and meaningful punishments) and bus stations not too far away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    ajoke a joke A JOKE
    1.2 million to revamp town centres how much more to mary portas and how much creamed off before any town centre gets the money more wasted public money the high street is dying out of town shopping thrives towns killed by high rates and parking charges from badly run councils please thinjk of something that might work??????

  • Comment number 278.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    I want a new pair of trousers. I shall ahve to get them online. Why? The town i live in does not stock them in my size, my two nearest towns do not have them in my size except on rare occassions because 'they are a very popular size sir, and we don't have many pairs in'. Perhaps they could ask themselves why business is bad! Oh and I have to shop online for my hobbies too. No shops!

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    The High Street is dead because shoppers killed it. People use local retailers to browse for products, but then buy online from companies who run their business out of a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Clearly the latter will be able to offer a better deal; they have lower overheads to clear. In these tight times everyone wants the best deal, but where will we browse in ten years' time?

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    You could open a 100 new shops and it would make no difference. People generally have no money to spend except on the absolute essentials. Add in business rates and car park charging (someone has to keep the council pension coffers full) and everything cheaper on the net and I'm surprised any small shops are still open at all.

    Mary Portas can dabble all she wants...pointless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    I counted 5 empty shops in my local, shortish, high street. A short while ago I was chatting with a woman who wanted to set up a business in the high street with a useful commodity that would not replicate what was already there. She gave up because of the extortionate rents. However Tesco is threatening to remove a woodland area and set themselves up despite 2 underused supermarkets. Logic?

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Why aren't they prioritising what to spend money on ? If they don't sort out fundamental issues like extortionate business rates and parking costs then nothing will change.
    Instead they are wasting £1.2m on trying out a load of fluffy ideas. Can't believe they get away with wasting public money like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    So now the Government have been given the information that 'empty shops rate hits new record' and they dont want the public to notice. Perhaps this money is destined to paint all these empty shops with shop frontages that make them seen to be in business. Osbornes family business will supply the wallpaper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Works out at 50k per high street and 50k to Ms Portas for her advice.

    Should pay for a few new bins and a few nice holidays for Mary. LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Gosh,1.2m! ,yet another useless anouncement from the land of hapless austerity cuts,millionaire leechers & political yawn-a-longs,as if 1.2m is going to make any difference,lets hope they don't spend it all at once...

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    She says the people who live in and do business in the towns are accountable. Sorry. I thought we elected governments to protect such people from the selfishness of greed driven, profit obsessed, one stop supermarkets which are solely responsible and should be accountable for decades of destruction. Mary Portas is not the answer. The answer is less greed and more willingness to share retail space.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    How much did Mary Portas get paid for compiling this report?
    Also how much publicity has she had for her new series?
    1.2million - pathetic

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Most of our towns certainly need an upgrade. It's nearly always Labour controlled Councils in the most neglected english towns where the problems are. They have never done anything or invested in infrastructure. In contrast, tax payers money always seems to go to Scottish towns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Waste of money. Retailing is not important. There are too many shops competing for too few customers, Let them close - it is the proper solution. Not throwing money at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    £1.2 million is this a joke.

    Truth is the High Street is now the domain of snack shops, coffee houses convenience shops & hairdresser, basically anything that cannot be sold on the internet

    Small shops, selling clothes, electricals, hardware & newsagents must adapt or are doomed

    If any money is spent it should be in making our high streets an attractive zone for services and entertainment

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Just another example of a "political initiative". I would be very surprised if this paltry sum ever filters through to the high street.

    Forgotten in a week or two and the government will announce some other "make believe" for us all to vomit at.

    The government's priorities?

    1. Let Vodafone off all tax, £billions
    2. Make sure the bankers get their bonuses and charge us for our current accounts.


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