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Sunday, 9 September 2012

12 towns offered chance to become a 'Portas Pilot'

  • Published: Saturday, 4 February 2012

Struggling towns and cities across England are being handed the chance to breathe new life into their ailing high streets. Mary Portas and the Local Government Minister, Grant Shapps, have launched a competition to choose 12 towns to become 'Portas Pilots', with the winners benefiting from a share of £1 million to help turn around their “unloved and unused” high streets.

Town teams

"Today I’m offering a golden ticket to 12 town centres across the country to become 'Portas Pilots'"

Grant Shapps

The 12 successful localities will create Town Teams, made up of the key players in their local community – such as the council, local landlords, shopkeepers and the local MP.

These teams will then benefit from the backing of the Minister, Whitehall and Mary Portas herself. They will also receive a share of £1 million.

Successful bidders

Picture by Dermott Flynn

Successful bidders will need to demonstrate how they have the energy, enthusiasm and vision to make a real difference to their town centres and make them the hubs of their communities.

Areas will need to show how they plan to breathe new life into their high streets and shopping parades. But not just in a staid application form – Mr Shapps would also like to see their pitches to become Portas Pilots, for example, in short YouTube clips.

Grant Shapps said: “Our high streets have faced stiff competition from Internet shopping, and out-of-town shopping centres – leaving them unused, unloved and under-valued.  The Internet is not going to go away, and so for our high streets to survive they need to offer something new and exciting.”

Mary Portas said: “I want the first 12 Town Teams to challenge the old ways of working, experiment, take risks and reaffirm their place at the heart of a community. A place we all want to be and can be proud of.”

Information for entrants

The contest wants to find pilot areas with a transformational vision for their high street and the backing to make it a reality. The lead partner should be able to clearly articulate this vision and demonstrate strong support for it from the local community and a wide range of local partners. The bids will need to show:

  • mix of pilot areas from a variety of town centres and high streets including market towns, villages, large towns, new towns, coastal towns and suburban areas. The contest wants to ensure a good geographical spread, as well as areas with both high / low average income levels and high / low empty shop vacancy rates
  • commitment - bids should demonstrate maximum commitment to the town team approach
  • potential for improvement - resources will be allocated on a value for money basis and therefore areas must be able to demonstrate their potential for improvement
  • innovation - bidders are asked to provide an outline of what the key priorities for their pilot area will be
  • the most innovative ideas and evidence of strong leadership that will have maximum impact and can be replicated elsewhere

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