Letchworth and Stevenage fail in Portas Pilot bids

TWO towns in Comet country have failed in their bids to win �100,000 in government money to improve retail trade.

Both Letchworth GC and Stevenage were unsuccessful in their applications to become a Mary Portas Pilot after 12 chosen towns were announced on Saturday.

There is still a chance to get government funding and advice from retail guru Mary Portas though with a second round of Portas Pilots – this time with 15 winners – expected to be announced before the end of July. Failed bids will be submitted automatically, although changes can be made before the deadline on June 30.

“I’m really pleased for the 12 towns that were awarded the grant and I’m really looking forward to seeing the impact it makes,” said Letchworth GC town centre manager Lee Boswell.

“We’re hoping that we will be successful in the next round of Portas’ Pilots but if not we will persevere with our efforts to make Letchworth a more vibrant town and all we can say is watch this space.”

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Stevenage has already been awarded �100,000 from the government’s �10m High Street Innovation Fund and town centre manager Tracey Parry admitted the failed Portas Pilot bid wasn’t surprising.

She said: “They were looking for 12 towns that were failing and although times are difficult I don’t think Stevenage as a town centre is failing so I think that is part of the reason why we weren’t successful. It’s disappointing but in reality it’s not surprising.”

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More than 370 applications were made for the nationwide competition with Bedford the closest competitor to be chosen.

Ms Parry added: “These pilots are going to be used by Mary Portas for her show. Bedford was successful and has lots of independent retailers which is what Mary Portas specialises is so I think that makes a difference.”

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