Portas Pilots: Lowestoft and Braintree win Mary Portas cash for high street

Lowestoft and Braintree have been selected in the second round of shopping guru Mary Portas’s ‘Portas Pilot’ scheme to revive Britain’s town centre.

Lowestoft will be given up to �100,000 to rejuvenate its high street shopping after it was selected.

The north Suffolk town beat about 400 communities nationwide to secure ‘Portas Pilot’ status which provides a slice of �1.5m, and a chance to test out Ms Portas’s ideas for regeneration. But its success comes after other towns in East Anglia saw their bids fail.

A host of towns were left disappointed today – although some towns claimed their applications had helped bring their communities together.

Lowestoft will become one of 27 communities earmarked for the project following the government’s decision to launch a second wave of pilot towns.

The scheme was set up to help high streets amid fierce competition from internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres.

Emma King, Lowestoft’s town centre manager, told of her joy at the successful bid which will include a business mentoring project and a discount scheme for shoppers.

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“This is an enormous achievement for Lowestoft and is real recognition for a town which has faced difficulties, but can now look towards a positive future,” she said.

The second wave of “Portas pilots” will entitle the beneficiaries to a share of �1.5m to help improve their town centres.

Some 370 applications were made following a report by Portas into the state of the country’s high streets. Those not selected will be able to bid for a share of a �5.5m pot for individual projects.

Local government minister Grant Shapps said: “I’d like to congratulate the 15 town teams that, in the face of stiff competition, have been selected to be the next Portas pilots.”

The 15 new pilot areas are: Ashford, Berwick, Braintree, Brighton, Hatfield, Royal Leamington Spa, Liverpool, the Waterloo area of central London, Forest Hill in south London, Tower Hamlets, Loughborough, Lowestoft, Morecambe, Rotherham and Tiverton.

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 in May, but there were none selected from Suffolk, Essex or Norfolk.

Braintree will provide mentoring support to the high number of independent shops in the area, while Lowestoft will create a town ‘group’ discount scheme to attract local people, and establish a mentoring scheme in conjunction with schools, colleges and retailers.

Mr Shapps said: “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.”

Ms Portas 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.”

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