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Multi million package of support to revive the country’s high streets

Nearly 400 Town Teams are to win backing from a multi-million pound package of Government support to revive their high streets and make them…

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Nearly 400 Town Teams are to win backing from a multi-million pound package of Government support to revive their high streets and make them the beating hearts of their communities, Local Government Minister Grant Shapps announced today.

High Street Illustration (Dermott Flynn)Illustration by Dermott Flynn

Having received an overwhelming volume of high quality bids the Minister confirmed that those not selected to be Portas Pilots would not be left behind. The news comes as Shapps announced 15 new Portas Pilots, taking the total across the country to 27.

Mr Shapps issued a call to MPs from the 392 Town Teams not chosen, to come forward and sign a national pledge to become a Town Team Partner - enabling access to a package of support to their own town. The package of support is worth £5.5million nationwide.

No high street left behind

Those that sign up to become Town Team Partners will receive backing from a multi-million pound support programme to help put elements of their plans into action. But they will also have the opportunity to:

  • Get access to events, workshops and seminars across the country addressing key challenges facing struggling town centres;
  • Receive direct mentoring support and visits from experts with a range of relevant backgrounds;
  • Directly benefit from the experience of the 27 Portas Pilots;
  • Meet regularly with town teams across the country to share their experiences and lessons learned; and
  • Join an online community to receive tips and advice from retail experts

The Town Team Partners will also benefit from a new web-based encyclopaedia - 100 Ways to Help the High Street, which will be hosted and run by the Association of Town Centre Management. The ATCM will also work with the areas selected as Town Team Partners to help them progress their proposals.

Business in the Community will also marshal support from businesses, retailers and trade bodies both for the Town Team Partners and the 27 Portas Pilots.

Further details will be announced later this year.

This additional package of support forms part of a wider response to Mary Portas’s Review, which was published last December. All town teams from across the country will also be able to bid for a £1million Future High Street X-Fund to reward the most effective and creative schemes to encourage people back to the town centres in 2013, and a £500,000 fund to help access set-up loans for new Business Improvement Districts.

Grant Shapps said:

Today 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. But 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.

That’s why I’m calling on these communities, led by their MPs, to put themselves forward once again to become Town Team Partners. Each one that applies will benefit from a package of support to refine their plans and get the help and advice they need to bring their town centres back to life.

I don’t want to lose the incredible momentum and I want to know that no town is left behind after such an enthusiastic and imaginative response to Mary Portas’s review. So alongside the 27 Portas Pilots across the country, these Town Team Partners will also be able to revive their high streets and make them the beating hearts of their communities once again.

Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Association of Town Centre Management, said:

The response to the challenge created by the government’s response to the Mary Portas report from communities in towns and cities across England was enormous. It is terrific to see the government acknowledging that groundswell of activity in such a positive way.

To enhance this support ATCM is launching a new web based encyclopedia - 100 Ways to Help the High Street - which will be available this Friday to all areas and Town Teams, at (external link).

We look forward to taking the same collegiate approach to working with all the Portas Pilot and Town Team Partner towns that we have done in hundreds of towns and cities across the UK and Ireland for many years.

Second Round Winners

Mr Shapps today confirmed 15 new Portas Pilots, taking the total to 27.

Of these, three have been selected by the Mayor of London. Recognising how this initiative complements his efforts to regenerate the capital’s high streets Boris Johnson has joined forces with Mr Shapps and is investing £300,000 to fund these additional pilots.

iframe: View Portas Pilots - Round 2 in a larger map

The new 15 are:

  • Ashford, whose Town Team will use its local market to attract people back to the high street by offering new stall-holders the opportunity to have a ‘stall for a tenner’;
  • Berwick, who will work with local builders and other businesses to give their high street a much-needed facelift;
  • Braintree, who will provide mentoring support to the high number of independent shops in the area;
  • Brighton (London Road), who will encourage retailers to work together to tackle vandalism and crime to help realise the area’s full potential;
  • Hatfield, who will look beyond retail to provide community and event facilities to encourage more visitors to the high street;
  • Leamington (Old Town), who plan to focus their efforts on tackling the high vacancy rate in the high street and encourage new businesses to the area;
  • Liverpool (Lodge Lane), who will help aspiring young entrepreneurs in the community by offering a mentoring service;
  • Waterloo - Lower Marsh and the Cut (London Borough of Lambeth), who plan to set up satellite markets and tackle the high number of empty shops in the area;
  • Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham (London Borough of Lewisham), who plan to renovate 12 empty premises and improve signage in the local area;
  • Chrisp Street, Watney Market, Roman Road (London Borough of Tower Hamlets), who will use exploit their high visitor numbers to run a series of public information programmes;
  • Loughborough, who plan to involve students from Loughborough University to reinvigorate their high street and encourage budding business owners to consider setting up locally;
  • Lowestoft, who will create a Town ‘group’ discount scheme to attract local people, and establish a mentoring scheme in conjunction with schools, colleges and retailers;
  • Morecambe, who will set up a community cafe to provide advice and support for those looking to take up business opportunities;
  • Rotherham, who will launch a publicity campaign to highlight the unique nature of the high street and encourage people to ‘shop local’; and
  • Tiverton, who plan to improve parking facilities to encourage more visitors and tourists to the town centre

Of these, the three in London will receive funding from the Greater London Authority.

These 15 pilots will now receive:

  • A share of £1.5 million to make their ideas a reality;
  • A dedicated contact point in Government to provide advice and support to encourage greater local business growth;
  • Free support from retail industry giants led by Boots, as well as Mary Portas’s team; and
  • Opportunities to meet and discuss lessons learned and experiences with fellow Portas Pilots

Mary 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

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:

Driving growth and creating jobs through the rejuvenation of London’s high streets is at the heart of my mayoralty and the Portas pilot initiative is a fantastic way to help us achieve this.

Through our regeneration drive we have already started reversing the decay of our high streets that had been allowed set in through long-term underinvestment.

The selected pilots have been chosen for their innovative approach and commitment to community partnerships. We will work closely with them and ensure their successful ideas are replicated across other towns in London and the UK. I strongly believe the regeneration of High streets will help lead the way in steering our town centres out of recession and get these vital economic hubs booming again.

These 15 new Portas pilots are in addition to the 12 winning Portas Pilots from the first round of the competition, who are already making strides to revive their high streets. These include:

  • Nelson in Lancashire, who are offering students small start-up grants to set up pop-up shops in the town centre, including a new retro sweet shop and an events company offering sports and entertainment events from various town centre locations;

  • Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, where the Town Team has launched a new loyalty card for customers, with over 100 local businesses signed up to offer 10 per cent discounts on their goods and services to members; and

  • Stockport in Greater Manchester, who are running a series of events to attract people to the high street, including a Teenager-run market, and a ‘Stocktoberfest’ German Beer Festival.


Second round winners


First round winners


Notes to editors

  1. More information about the pilots:


The key priority for the Town Team will be to reinvigorate the town centre market, by testing plans for a ‘stall for a tenner’, in a new town centre market celebrating local produce and crafts made in Kent. The team will also look to better integrate the town centre and the nearby Ashford Designer Outlet.


The Town Team’s ‘Beautiful Berwick’ vision is to use local builders, communication companies and artists to improve shop fronts, signage, seating and advertising space over the course of a six-month campaign to improve the look of the high street.


The Braintree Town Team’s main focus is to provide support to the independent retailers and other businesses that occupy nearly two thirds of premises in the town centre. To do this, the Town Team will offer a mentoring service to these entrepreneurs, including support for business development planning, merchandising, access to finance, and using social media and the Internet to support business growth.


The London Road area of Brighton has suffered from crime, vandalism and empty shops, however with nearby digital media companies, arts venues and good transport links the area has real potential. To address the issues the area faces, the Town Team plan to work with the local Business Crime Reduction Partnership and Local Action Team, and will pilot a subsidised radio scheme to allow businesses to share information on criminal activity in the area and improve links between traders.


The only New Town to be selected as a Portas Pilot, Hatfield will focus on making their high street a ‘community hub’ rather than purely for retail, by investing in a portable undercover staging area and events space in the town centre to host community events and activities. In addition, the Town Team plan to provide opportunities for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas at pop-up stalls during market days and at community events.

London Borough of Lambeth - Lower Marsh and the Cut

Lambeth’s Town Team plan to tackle the high level of empty shops around Waterloo, creating ‘satellite markets’ outside empty frontages and working with local landlords to provide training and get tenants into vacant buildings. They also plan to revitalise the Lower Marsh street market, giving local students the chance to trial their designs on ‘test days’, giving local theatres the chance to perform in the area and encouraging schools to help young local entrepreneurs to set up stall.


Leamington’s Town Team are particularly keen to address the 21 per cent shop vacancy rate in their High Street. To do this, they have developed a HEART UP initiative to encourage independent retailers to occupy vacant units. In addition, the Town Team will address the derelict railway service in the town to turn it into striking landmarks and encourage more visitors.

London Borough of Lewisham - Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham

The Town Team in Lewisham plan to overhaul the empty shops in Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham, renovating 12 vacant properties and updating signage across the area. Two empty shops will be reinvented as community hubs, hosting exhibitions and business workshops. Other events such as showcases for local products and new market locations will encourage residents to shop local.

Liverpool - Lodge Lane

Led by the Tiber Young People’s Steering Group the bid, which has a strong level of local community support, focused on improving the local public square, and promoting business start-ups in the area - particularly through a new mentoring scheme. The Town Team will also offer training to young people on becoming entrepreneurs.


Loughborough has suffered from stiff retail competition from the high streets in nearby Leicester, Nottingham and Derby, and the Fosse Park out-of-town shopping centre. To address this, the Town Team is looking to involve students from the university in helping developing existing businesses by offering mentoring on social networking. The Town Team will also run retail masterclasses with Loughborough University and successful retailers.


The priority for the Lowestoft Town Team is to increase footfall in the High Street. To do this, they plan to launch a mentoring scheme between larger and smaller traders, Town Rangers who will provide information to shoppers as well as security in the town and a new Lowestoft Town ‘group’ discount scheme, where retailers who sign up offer discounts to shoppers who shop regularly there. The Town Team also plan to introduce additional maps and marketing boards to highlight forthcoming attractions that the high street has to offer.


Morecambe has long suffered from high shop vacancy rates, which the Town Team are very keen to address. For this, the team are looking beyond retail to make the high street a social area, with a new community cafe where people will be able to get advice and support to take up business and training opportunities. All profits made from branding will be ploughed back into the local community to help regenerate the area.


With two large shopping parks competing for business nearby, Rotherham Town Team’s focus will be to get residents to ‘shop local’. The Team will emphasise the individuality of the local high street, working closely with independent local shops and providing training, support and business development grants to local retailers.


Tiverton has long suffered from being within easy distance of Exeter and its bustling high street. To tackle this, Tiverton’s Town Team plan to turn a plot of unused land in the heart of the town into a coach park to attract the tourist parties that already visit neighbouring artisan towns. The Town Team are also keen to work with other pilots, to pass the lessons they learn from the process on to towns across the country.

London Borough of Tower Hamlets - Chrisp Street, Watney Market, Roman Road

The Town Team will use the strength of their highly innovative ‘Ideas Stores’ - combining the best of traditional library and information services with activities programmes - exploiting their high visitor numbers to run a series of programmes including NHS driven healthy food initiatives.

  1. The successful bids come from mix of areas from a variety of town centres and high streets across a geographical spread including market towns, villages, large towns, new towns, coastal towns and suburban areas. The pilots cover both high / low average income levels and high / low empty shop vacancy rates.

  2. The chosen pilots have demonstrated a transformational vision for their high street and strong support from the local community and a wide range of local partners to make it a reality. The lead partner clearly articulated this vision and demonstrated strong support from the local community and a wide range of local partners.

The pilots also demonstrated:

  • strong leadership - pilots areas clearly articulated and delivered a transformational vision for their high street
  • commitment - demonstrated maximum commitment to the Town Team approach amongst retailers, landlords, the local authority and the local community or community groups.
  • potential for improvement - clear articulation of the problems and challenges, including proposing solutions that would bring real change to their high street.
  • innovation - set out the most innovative ideas that would have maximum impact and can be replicated elsewhere.
  1. The Mayor of London, recognising how this initiative complements his extensive efforts to regenerate the capital’s high streets, is joining forces with the Department for Communities and Local Government to invest £300,000 to fund three additional London pilots.

The pilots will be selected by the Mayor this summer following a bidding process designed to attract the best ideas that will deliver jobs and growth to some of they city’s high streets and town centres most affected by the economic downturn and underinvestment.

  1. The Portas Pilots scheme is being supported by other organisations. These include:
  • Arts Council England, who will offer advice, expertise and potentially grant support to help develop the cultural and artistic elements of planning the pilots;
  • Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) are offering pilots a free trial membership of the ATCM.
  • Springboard Research Ltd have agreed to provide access data and run workshops for pilots. Evidence based research is important to enable the pilots to get a thorough understanding of the issues that they face, the potential solutions
  • The British Council of Shopping Centres and the British Property Federation are coordinating a mentor scheme online so that pilot towns can access free specialist advice on issues like property and planning.
  • The British Retail Consortium are offering each of the Portas Pilot town teams a new free membership package, which will provide them with access to information about the current position of the sector and evolving BRC priorities and activity.
  1. The Portas Review: An independent review into the future of our High Streets was published on 13 December, 2011. The Review made ambitious recommendations on what can be done - by Government, local authorities and business - to help high streets deliver something new. The focus is on putting the heart back into the centre of our high streets, re-imagined as exciting social hubs for shopping learning, socialising and having fun.
Published 25 July 2012