East Anglia: Action for Market Towns and Co-operative offer extra help to Portas Pilot schemes

UNSUCCESSFUL Portas Pilot schemes across England are being offered extra help and support in a bid to maintain the enthusiasm in rejuvenating local high streets.

Scores of groups and partnerships were left disappointed last month after the Government announced the first 12 winners of a �1.2m project to revitalise town centres.

But town teams have been offered an extra lifeline to get investment after Bury St Edmunds-based national charity Action for Market Towns (AMT) offered to help get 10 unsuccessful bids off the ground. The national charity has teamed up with the Co-operative Group to offer financial support.

Bids for the Portas Pilot scheme were submitted on behalf of Ipwich, Felixstowe, Saxmundham, Halesworth, Framlingham, Southwold Leiston, Aldeburgh, Brandon, Diss, Great Yarmouth, Halesworth, Lowestoft, Southwold and Thetford in the first round of the Portas Pilot amongst 370 applications from towns across the country.

The first 12 towns to receive a share of �1.2 million Portas Pilot scheme pot and get tailored support to help them implement rejuvenation plans were named last month but there were none selected from Suffolk, Essex or Norfolk.

AMT chief executive Chris Wade was outspoken in describing the effects on towns which lost out, saying losing applicants had been “punched in the guts” by the process and a lack of further support for struggling high streets.

“To turn the process of support for our ailing high streets into a competition, then let the losers watch while a different �10m pot (the ‘High Street Innovation Fund’) is handed out which may not benefit them, is a punch in the guts for the unsuccessful bidders. I’m delighted for the winners – and bitterly disappointed for the losing towns,” he said at the time.

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ATM and the Co-operative are hoping to keep town teams going by offering to fund research into 10 fledgling town teams. They will perform a “town benchmarking” service looking at the performance of high streets and how a town compares with others regionally and nationally.

Mr Wade said: “Town Benchmarking enables towns to identify their strengths and weaknesses, develop clear strategies, and even access funding; by gaining a better understanding of their towns, Town Teams can plan with a clear and relevant focus and ambition.”

AMT will be staging a ‘Marketing your Town’ workshop at the Diss Corn Hall on Thursday.

For more information, visit www.towns.org.uk