Halesworth: Final touches added to ‘pilot town’ bid

A SUFFOLK town is forging an impressive bid to become one of a handful of locations adopted by retail guru Mary Portas.

Halesworth’s attempt to be named a Portas Pilot Town, and benefit from up to �100,000 in funding, took two big leaps forward this week – with the release of a video to promote the bid, and a meeting held in public to discuss the application.

The town is one of several, including Lowestoft, Diss, Southwold, Framlingham, Leiston, Aldeburgh and Saxmundham, to put in for the scheme set up by Mary Portas and the government to invest �1 million in regeneration projects for up to 12 locations across England.

The group hoping to reinforce Halesworth’s position as a shopping and tourism destination shared their vision and heard the ideas of residents during a public meeting this week at The Cut on Tuesday, where the submission video was screened for the first time.

The bid has already gained backing from broadcaster Emma Freud who, in a letter of support, called the town “incredibly exciting, viable and vibrant”. That support was boosted further when more than 80 members of the community met to discuss the bid at The Cut.

The meeting was originally scheduled to take place in the venue’s concourse but was so well attended that it was moved into the auditorium. Laura Churchill, who runs Bluebird Vintage in Bridge Street and is leading the bid, said: “People were very excited about the ideas we have put forward and almost everyone was willing to spare some time to help the bid.

“Whether we are successful or not, these ideas can be taken forward to promote the town. Nothing in our plan is unachievable and the community has been galvanised by taking ownership of their town.”

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One of the main ideas shaping the bid is for a community shop to be occupied by a different local artist, craft maker, business or entrepreneur each week, with an annual competition offering a week’s free rent to school-leavers and young entrepreneurs with the best ideas or products.

A proposed ‘Love Halesworth’ campaign would include distinctive advertising and branding for local produce made in the town, while improved signage and regeneration of the town centre, plus improved facilities for cyclists, would aim to encourage more visitors.

Messages of support, addressed to Halesworth Town Centre Group, can be sent to laura@bluebirdvintage.co.uk, or to Bluebird Vintage, The Hawk, Bridge Street, Halesworth, IP19 8AD.

You can keep up to date with the bid by joining facebook.com/halesworthportaspilot, by following @HwthPortasPilot on twitter, or by visiting bluebirdvintage.co.uk.