And so the headline reads from the DCLG press release.

Portas Report - Illustration by Dermott Flynn

Portas Report – Illustration by Dermott Flynn

For the lucky fifteen new Portas Pilots they will be sharing £1.5 million of Government funding.

For the unsuccessful 392 the multi-million package is not quite so generous. If they can sign up their local MP (and why would an MP not want to sign-up? The alternative would seem to be foot shooting pf the highest order) the unsuccessful can share £5.5 million between them. This does look like Government wanting to sweeten the bitter pill of disappointment and grab the headline that “multi millions are going in to our town centres”.

This does not mean that for one moment we want to decry the £14,000 apiece that this works out at, allowing town centres to put some of their plans in to action. Nor the additional support of:

  • events, workshops and seminars across the country addressing key challenges facing struggling town centres;
  • direct mentoring support and visits from experts with a range of relevant backgrounds;
  • direct benefit from the experience of the 27 Portas Pilots;
  • regular meetings with town teams across the country to share their experiences and lessons learned; and
  • an online community to receive tips and advice from retail experts

But this does feel like a David and Goliath battle – £14,000 apiece for our struggling high streets – when faced with a double dip recession and competition from out of town stores.

So how best to equip David to fight this battle? Firstly, through real action on the plans that the Portas’ Pilot bidders put together, and some of this will be done through neighbourhood plans. Secondly, by ensuring we do have a truly town centre first policies in   local authority plans, an that means ensuring that these are updated as a matter of urgency.


©Kirkwells Town Planners and Sustainable Development Consultants based at the Lancashire Digital Technology Centre in Burnley
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