15 Portas Pilots Announced

Portas Pilot Towns - Illustration by Dermott FlynnFollowing Mary Portas’ independent review of the high streets, the findings of which were published at the end of last year, the Government announced yesterday another wave of Portas Pilots.

The Portas Pilot Town Teams are to work in 15 new locations to carry out some of the recommendations in Mary Portas’ review, and to try and breathe life back into some of the country’s most needy high streets.

£1.5 million will be shared out between the following new Portas Pilots:

  1. Ashford, Kent
  2. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland
  3. Braintree, Essex
  4. London Road in Brighton
  5. Hatfield, Hertfordshire
  6. Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
  7. Lodge Lane in Liverpool
  8. "The Cut" in the Waterloo area of central London
  9. Forest Hill, south London
  10. Chrisp Street, Watney Market, Roman Road in Tower Hamlets, east London
  11. Loughborough in Leicestershire
  12. Lowestoft, Suffolk
  13. Morecambe in Lancashire
  14. Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and
  15. Tiverton, Devon

These latest 15 Portas Pilots will now receive:

  • A proportion of the £1.5 million seocnd round funding
  • A dedicated point of contact within Government providing advice and support
  • Free support from big brand names in the retail industry
  • The opportunity to meet other Portas Pilots to share and discuss ideas and experiences

Grant Shapps MP, the Minister of State for Housing and Local Government, whose Communities and Local Government department is funding the scheme, congratulated the latest 15 Portas Pilots, saying:

“But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’m determined that we don’t turn our backs on the other 392 Town Teams who put their plans forward to revive their high streets.”

Nearly 400 towns applied to the scheme and, whislt there are only 27 winners with access to the top funds, the remaining 392 runners up are being encouraged to apply for access to what’s left of the £5.5 million pot where they will also have opportunities to:

  • Access events, workshops & seminars across the UK dealing with the issues facing high streets
  • Receive direct mentoring from a number of experts
  • Meet the other 27 Portas Pilots to share ideas and experiences

Shaps added:

“I don’t want to lose the incredible momentum and I want to know that no town is left behind after such an enthusiastic and imaginative response to Mary Portas’s review. So alongside the 27 Portas Pilots across the country, these Town Team Partners will also be able to revive their high streets and make them the beating hearts of their communities once again.”

Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, whose independent review led to the scheme said:

“I am thrilled that communities up and down the country have looked beyond the money and have been mobilised to create ‘town teams’ and demand more for their high streets. Whilst I shall continue to fight for the other 27 ‘recommendations’ in my Review am looking forward to seeing fifteen more British towns putting their plans into action.”

However, Ben Dyer, CEO of e-commerce provider SellerDeck, disagreed:

“While Mary Portas’ intentions are great, I’m afraid the scheme is utterly short sighted. The internet has transformed retail and thanks to ecommerce we have access to a digital high street larger than any single town could compete with.

“The current high street is obsolete and throwing money at it isn’t the answer. The future is multi-channel – we need to be encouraging retailers to connect the physical and digital retail worlds if they stand any chance of competing with the giants. This money could be better spent investing in technology, mentoring and training to help retailers get online.”

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, selected the 3 London Pilots and they are being funded from the Greater London Authority.

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