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Action for Market Towns Comment: Portas Pilot is punch in the guts for unsuccessful bidders6th June 2012

Mary Portas

The eagerly anticipated - especially by the 371 applicants - announcement of the 12 "Portas Pilot" winners has been made by Local Government Minister Grant Shapps. 

The first 12 Portas Pilot towns are:
Bedford; Croydon, Greater London; Dartford, Kent; 
Bedminster, Bristol; Liskeard, Cornwall; Margate, Kent; 
Market Rasen, Lincolnshire; Nelson, Lancashire;
 Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland; Stockport, Greater Manchester;
 Stockton on Tees, Teeside and Wolverhampton.

Local Government Minister Grant Shapps praised the exceptional quality of the winning bids, which will each receive a slice of £1.2 million and a tailored package of support from both the Minister and retail guru Mary Portas. Grant Shapps also said a second round of the competition will see 15 further towns benefit and added "together these pilots can be the vanguard of a high street revolution, and others can look to their example to kick start a renaissance of our town centres."

Meanwhile Mary Portas told delegates at a "High Street Camp" conference on Friday 25 May that she will work directly alongside several of the winners and that Channel 4 will make a reality TV show about their experiences.

Chris Wade, Chris Wade, chief executive of national charity Action for Market Towns (AMT), which is committed to the vitality and viability of small towns and provides training, support, advocacy and a range of other services to more than 450 town councils, community and town partnerships, and local authorities, said: "I'm delighted for the Portas Pilot Winners and look forward to seeing them begin to revitalise their towns. And AMT were thrilled that Mary Portas included so many of our recommendations in her report.

"Evidence from towns we have worked with has shown the positive impact that Town Teams and Mary's other suggestions, can make. But the sheer volume of 371 applications, alongside our own figures, showing a decline in footfall across small towns, show the enormous need for more widespread action to tackle the decline in Britain's high streets. With just 27 Portas Pilots being funded, well over 300 community projects to rejuvenate high streets will be disappointed.

"Mary Portas is genuinely passionate about rejuvenating high streets and towns. So are the communities, which worked so hard to submit innovative and creative Portas Pilot applications. But to turn the process of support for our ailing high streets into a competition, then let the losers watch while a different £10m pot (the High Street Innovation Fund) is handed out, which may not benefit them, is a punch in the guts for the unsuccessful bidders."

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