Portas Pilot Scheme: Stevenage and Letchworth apply, Baldock and Hitchin opt out

TWO Comet country towns have applied to be selected for a scheme headed by retail expert Mary Portas.

Both Stevenage and Letchworth GC are bidding to be one of 12 towns chosen in the Mary Portas Pilot Scheme. If selected, they will receive a share of �1m as well as support from Ms Portas and a dedicated team.

The scheme aims to breathe new life into shopping centres, based on recommendations made in the Portas Review which was published last year. A decision will be made by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Letchworth GC town centre manager Lee Boswell said: “Letchworth’s bid really meets the criteria set out by DCLG for success as a Portas Pilot.

“The Town Team has recognised the importance of community involvement, commitment to the process, an innovative approach to the use of empty shops and of adding vibrancy to the Garden City.

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“Hopefully DCLG will look upon our application favourably and some good news will be heading North Hertfordshire’s way in May.”

Stevenage last week received a �100,000 grant from Central Government’s �10m High Street Innovation Fund.

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It will be used by the borough council to help kick start new businesses and bring empty high street properties back into us.

The town will hear if it will receive anymore funding as part of the Portas Pilot, along with Letchworth GC, next month.

Town centre manager Tracey Parry said: “We are keen to promote more collaboration at a local level, to engage with the community and the businesses that have a vested interest in revitalising and rejuvenating both the town centre and the Old Town High Street.

“Success in our bid to become one of the 12 towns in the Mary Portas pilot scheme will help the town team partnership achieve this, attract quality retail investment and enhance the shopping experience in Stevenage.”

Both Hitchin and Baldock decided not to apply for the Portas Pilot scheme.

Hitchin town centre manager, Keith Hoskins, said: “We thought about it, but when we read the blurb of what was required, it said it was looking for the 12 worst town centres. By no stretch of the imagination are we a worst town centre.

“There is no way they would look at us and say we are one of the worst in the UK because we are doing so much already. It wouldn’t have been worth it. Of all the things recommended [in the Portas report] we were doing them anyway.”

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