Put our towns first and revive the nation's high streets

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Town Team partners to benefit from multi-million pound support MPs returning to Parliament next week can put their towns first by putting their…

Town Team partners to benefit from multi-million pound support

MPs returning to Parliament next week can put their towns first by putting their local high streets forward for a package of Government support and help make them the beating hearts of their communities once again, Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said today.

High Street Illustration (Dermott Flynn)Illustration by Dermott Flynn

The Minister urged MPs whose towns missed out in the Portas Pilot competition to apply now for their town centres to become Town Team partners and benefit from help available, including support from the Government and access to advice and support from leading retail experts.

He also called on towns across the country to apply to be considered for the Future High Street X-Fund. Those town centres that show they have made the greatest improvements will win a share of the £1million prize on offer.

Grant Shapps said:

Having witnessed the overwhelming response from over 400 towns to our search for Portas Pilots, I’m determined that the energy and enthusiasm they displayed is not lost, and that every area has the opportunity to breathe new life into their high streets.

It’s time to put ‘Our Towns First’. That’s why today I’m calling on MPs to apply for their towns to become Town Team partners, so that communities can put their plans into action with the backing of retail experts as well as learning the lessons from other town teams from across the country.

And for those who make the greatest improvements to their high streets, I look forward to awarding them with a share of the £1million Future High Streets X-Fund so that they can continue their sterling work to bring their town centres back to life.

No high street left behind

This package of support comes after an overwhelming response to the competition to find 27 Portas Pilots. With over 400 town teams submitting bids, Mr Shapps is clear that none will be left behind in the campaign to breathe new life into the nation’s high streets.

Those MPs that apply to be Town Team partners will be making a commitment for their town team to take forward key elements of their original plan for reviving their high streets.

In exchange, they will have access to:

  • an advice line and a network of advisers managed by the Association of Town Centre Management, as well as key informative events;
  • direct mentoring and visits from a range of retail experts;
  • regular meetings with other Town Teams to share lessons learned, tips and ideas; and
  • an online community to receive advice and information from retail experts; and
  • benefit from a Government-sponsored fund designed to help towards getting their plans off the ground

Already Portas Pilots across the country are taking steps to bring their high streets back to life. These include:

  • Market Rasen’s Portas Pilot, who attracted 35 new traders to the town in July putting the ‘market’ back into Market Rasen and enticing thousands of new visitors into the town. Going forward, they are now looking to run their next BIG Market event on 1 September with the theme, ‘Say Goodbye to Summer’;
  • Stockton’s Portas Pilot, who are already achieving their goal to connect local businesses to the range of events taking place in the local high street. For example, for the 25th anniversary of Stockton’s International Riverside Festival, local restaurants were offered their own gazebos, banners and leaflets to serve their food to visitors.
  • Dartford’s Portas Pilot, which has opened a community shop to be used by a range of community groups as a place to meet and socialise. The Pilot have also been generating more Sunday trading through a ‘My Sunday’ marketing campaign that promotes the towns businesses, market, parks and free parking.

Future High Street X-Fund open for business

Mr Shapps also called for nominations for town centres to be considered for the £1million Future High Street X-Fund.

This prize will be shared among the high streets that show the greatest improvements. Towns will be judged by an independent expert panel, for the inventiveness of their schemes and the impacts they can evidence, such as increased footfall or turnover, or improved skills and employment levels.

Towns will also need to explain how they plan to use their prize money to further support their high streets.

Notes to editors

  1. MPs representing towns whose Portas Pilots bids were unsuccessful will today receive an application form to put forward their towns to be Town Team Partners. The deadline for submitting forms is 16 September 2012.

  2. Our Town First: Future High Street X-Fund - Prospectus is published today and can be found at:

  3. The independent expert panel of judges will include representatives from Alliance Boots, the Association of Town Centre Management, Civic Voice, Locality and Yellowdoor (Mary Portas’s retail and brand communication agency).