Bids lodged for Portas cash pot

Mary Portas .
Mary Portas .
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TIME is running out for submitting applications to become a “Portas Pilot” town – but Fylde coast business communities have already benefited from the scheme before any bids have been lodged.

Dubbed the “queen of shops” retail expert Mary Portas gave the Government a list of recommendations to help rejuvenate town centres across the country.

And a pot of £1m will be shared between towns after the Government pledged the cash to 12 pilot areas to make high street improvements.

Wyre Council will this week lodge a bid to cover Fleetwood, Cleveleys, Poulton and Garstang.

Council leader Peter Gibson said: “We hope the fact it’s over more centres makes it a more attractive bid.

“All of our towns are struggling in some way, but we also want to emphasise our Wyred Up meeting which is very successful

“We’d like to expand that to offer businesses more services.”

Mr Gibson said the application process itself had already had a positive effect on the borough.

He added: “We’ve got a group of people together and whether the bid is successful or not, we aim to keep them together, to support each other and share best practice.”

A bid has also been lodged by traders in Kirkham.

It is understood Blackpool has also been working on a bid.

And Arnold Sumner, co-ordinator of St Annes Chamber of Trade, said his town centre had already felt the benefits of the high street report compiled by the retail expert for the Government.

Despite St Annes not bidding to become a pilot town, Mr Sumner said the report had boosted the area.

He added: “We have definitely benefited from the report – one of the ideas was for pop up shops and one appeared in Garden Street.

“It gives people the chance to have a go at running the shop on a short-term basis to make sure it’s what they want to do.”

The Portas Review, published in December, set out what she thought had led to the decline of the high street and made 28 recommendations about what could be done “to breathe life back into them”. She said many high streets had reached crisis point.

Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Association of Town Centre Management, said: “Now, as we await the Government’s response and the deadline for submitting applications as well as the announcement of the new national planning policy framework, there is a focus on improving town centres.

“The enthusiasm shown has proved how passionate towns are in creating town teams and bringing together communities.