Should you fancy a bicycle rickshaw ride next time you visit Bedminster, a suburb of Bristol, or listen to the new Town Criers in Wolverhampton, then thank Mary Portas who included these bizarre activities as a means of regenerating the High Street. These were two amongst many suggested by towns bidding for a share of the Â£l.2m hand out following the call for bids for Portas Pilots.
I shouldn't mock, however - rather, search the ideas suggested by the winners and see which would work in Ipswich. There was a noticeable call for changes to town centre car parking from a majority of towns, a clear belief that cheaper, closer, easier access by private car was the solution. However, equally noticeable was that no one suggested how to stop commuters parking in these newly created cheaper spaces, a dilemma that Ipswich Central have been considering for some time. There was also a cry for support for new businesses to come into town, either by mentor support, short term rent- free trials or by offering pop-up shops.
There were 371 entries and the very fact that most had reviewed their current offer and decided what was lacking is reassuringly satisfying. Even if Ipswich didn't win, it now has a slightly better understanding of why it is slowly fading.
The twelve towns that were successful in the first round are:
- Bedminster (Bristol)
- Liskeard, Cornwall
- Market Rasen
- Nelson, Lancashire
- Newbiggin by the Sea
- Stockton on Tees
[Croydon, Stockport and Wolverhampton were also recipients of the High Street Innovation Fund which did benefit Ipswich ~ see previous page.]
Each Portas Pilot wins:
- £100,000 in funding to put their ideas into action.
- A dedicated contact point in Government to provide advice and support in identifying and overcoming challenges to local business growth.
- Free support from retail industry leaders including Mary Portas.
- Opportunities to meet with fellow Pilots to share their experiences and lessons learned.
- An expectation that they will deliver a blueprint for town centre regeneration that can be adapted by others, and a benchmark of progress so that we can all see if their strategy works.
Ipswich didn't win, but it can learn. There are some clever ideas amongst the winning entries, particularly amongst retailers to build trade together by joint activity. I recommend you take a look at the website.