Southwold: Business and civic leaders plan bid for Portas cash

RETAIL and civic leaders are bidding for a slice of �1million to breathe new life into a town’s high street and protect its “vibrant hub” of independent businesses.

A partnership of local organisations, businesses, landlords and authorities hope Southwold can become one of just 12 places across the country to be selected for the Portas Pilot town scheme. If successful, the town could scoop up to �100,000 to test the ideas of retail guru Mary Portas, who has joined forces with the Government to spearhead a campaign to revitalise town centres amid increased competition from internet shopping and out-of-town developments.

The bid, led by Southwold and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, will seek ideas from local people and create a “town team” to develop a fresh approach to the way the high street is managed.

Meanwhile, small businesses will be given consultancy workshops by entrepreneur and London College of Fashion lecturer Catherine Fuller, who runs the Southwold-based lingerie brand Outrageous Fortune.

But the town faces strong competition from across the county, with Stowmarket, Lowestoft, Halesworth and a joint bid from Framlingham, Leiston, Saxmundham and Aldeburgh among just some of those in the pipeline.

Guy Mitchell, chairman of Southwold and District Chamber of Trade, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to come together to ensure Southwold’s high street remains a vibrant hub serving local people and visitors.

“Southwold as a town is full of character and we are very lucky, but without action we risk becoming like any other town centre with the same national chain stores.

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“We want to promote independence and keep it different.

“People may look at Southwold as a prosperous town that doesn’t need support, but we are looking at this bid as preventative medicine because without taking action, and by becoming complacent, we will become like any other high street.”

To back the bid, submit your ideas to or fill out a form at business displaying the Back the Bid symbol.

The bid has to be submitted before the end of March.