The Government has today launched a £1m competition to help turn-around failing high streets on the back of the Portas Review.
The Portas Review, published before Christmas, contained 28 recommendations to save “unused, unloved and under-valued” town and city centres, put forward by the self-styled retail guru Mary Portas.
Portas and local government minister Grant Shapps, in charge of implementing the recommendations, will pick 12 towns to become “Portas Pilots”, taking a share of the £1m prize.
Towns and cities picked will have to show top turn-around plans for their high street.
Shapps said: “Today I’m offering a golden ticket to 12 town centres across the country to become “Portas Pilots” – areas with the vision and enthusiasm to breathe new life into what should be the beating heart of their communities, and they will get Mary’s and my support as they try out the ideas in her recent review.”
Successful locations will first create Town Teams, the primary recommendation from the review.
Made up from key community figures such as council workers, local landlords and shopkeepers, the teams will be able to “hand-pick” recommendations from the review and trial them in their area.
“These pilots are just the start. We want to learn their lessons and help communities across the country breathe new life into their own towns. Launching this competition now is a signal of our understanding that there’s no time to waste in driving forward these important measures,” Shapps added.
Portas carried out a seven-month review of the high street. She concluded that high streets need to offer more than shops, adding gyms and art galleries into the mix in a shift to a “new multi-functional, social high street”.
A full Government response to the review is expected by the spring.
Portas said: “I hope my Review has inspired people with another vision of tomorrow where our high streets are re-imagined as destinations for socializing, culture, well being, learning as well as shopping. I want the first twelve 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.”
Towns and cities hoping to revive their high streets will be expected to show “maximum” commitment to the town team approach, innovation and evidence of strong leadership “that will have maximum impact and can be replicated elsewhere” to show that they can make them the hubs of their communities.
Resources will be allocated on a value for money bases, while the Government is looking to try pilots in a mix of locations.
The British Retail Consortium director of business Tom Ironside said: “The Mary Portas review came up with a number of sensible ideas to help breathe new life into struggling town centres, many of them reflected in the BRC’s own campaigning.
“It’s great to see action being taken to start making some of her recommendations a reality. Town centres do need to be actively managed and Government is right to recognise investment is often needed, although £1 million will not go far.