Dartford and Margate receive Portas share of cash

The two Kent towns were among a total of 12 selected from more than 370 applications

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Two towns in Kent have been chosen by retail guru Mary Portas to receive part of a £1.2m pot of government cash to rejuvenate their high streets.

Dartford and Margate are among 12 "Portas pilot" areas, with 15 more due to be selected later in the year.

More than 370 towns applied, and the winners will receive support and advice from Ms Portas and other experts.

She visited Margate last year when it had one of the highest number of empty shops in the country.

Councillor Iris Johnston, of Thanet District Council, remembered Ms Portas as "a no-nonsense person".

"She saw the potential, she saw the enthusiasm, and she went away and she wrote a brilliant report for us, and of course now here we are successful," she said.

'Town revival'

The town has been promised job club services and pop-up shops.

Sir Roger Gale, the Conservative MP for North Thanet, said the success of the bid was "another piece of the jigsaw that is the revival of Margate as a key seaside destination for leisure".

Dartford High Street has also suffered over the years, losing out to shoppers who have turned to one of Europe's biggest shopping centres, Bluewater, in nearby Greenhithe.

Lewis Kirnon, Dartford town centre manager, said he would like to use the money to find new uses for empty shops involving the community.

He said: "We've got to do things differently. We can't just rely on retail solely any more.

"We would love to get groups like the scouts, brownies - get them using units in different ways.

"We would love to get start-ups on our markets, entrepreneurs to use them as well."

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