High streets hope for Portas money

GURU Mary Portas
GURU Mary Portas

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TODAY high street traders in Gosport and North End, Portsmouth, will get to see which other towns they’re up against to win a pot of money.

Both Gosport Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council have submitted videos in a bid to win a share of £1m from the Mary Portas Pilot scheme.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps launched the scheme last month, based on shopping guru Mary Portas’s review of the High Street, and the 28 recommendations she made in that review.

Only 12 high streets will be chosen to get the money, which will be used for regeneration and to help fill empty shops with new businesses.

The deadline for entries is today, but both the Gosport and North End bids were uploaded onto internet video site YouTube with plenty of time to spare.

In the North End bid, Portsmouth’s Caroline Collings, who is chairwoman of the Federation of Small Businesses in south-east Hampshire, describes why the high street could benefit from the money.

She said: ‘In our town team we’ve got the wider neighbourhood firms, businesses, schools and churches. They recognise there’s a need here to change what’s on offer and change how North End is commonly perceived.’

Some of the plans include working with youth theatres to stage performances in empty shops, and other schemes to increase activity on the high street to encourage people to visit.

Ms Collings added: ‘While they’re there what we want them to do is start to look at opportunities and maybe starting up their own business, or using some of the independent shops that are here.’

The North End bid has been backed by Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt.

Similarly, Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage spoke in parliament to support Gosport’s bid.

She said: ‘Gosport would be a brilliant pilot town.

‘My vision for Gosport is something that capitalises on our unique location.’

The leader of Gosport Borough Council Mark Hook said: ‘If someone like Mary Portas could come in and give some help and advice then that should be welcomed.

‘She has made 28 recommendations. Half of those are things for the government to look at, like business rates which aren’t set by the council.

‘Businesses would benefit from things like that.’

Mary Portas said: ‘I hope my review has inspired people with another vision of tomorrow where our high streets are reimagined as destinations for socialising, culture, wellbeing and learning as well as shopping.’