Town bids for ‘Portas Pilot’

BOSTON is bidding to become a ‘Portas Pilot’ town under the guidance of TV’s ‘Queen of Shops’, a move which could bag a £100,000 cash injection to boost the town’s fortunes.

Borough councillors hope that a united town could mount a successful bid for the status and bring vital funding as well as support from the Government and celebrity high street expert Mary Portas.

The council says it spotted the potential benefits to be had from tapping into Mary Portas’ expertise long before she was asked to review the nation’s high streets by the Government and had invited her to visit last June.

Cabinet member Yvonne Gunter said: “I asked her to come to Boston to give her views on retailing. I wanted her to suggest ways in which we could better link up the shopping areas.

“I outlined some of the things we were doing, including the Market Place refurbishment, and she replied to me to say she was delighted to hear of some of the efforts being made.

“I had no inkling that she was looking at these things from a national perspective. It just goes to show that Boston was ahead of the game.”

Last week the council held a meeting to encourage business leaders in the town to make a bid to be a ‘Portas Pilot’.

The 12 places picked for the lucrative status would see a town team of key local figures work with Local Government Minister Grant Shapps, Whitehall and Mary Portas. They would have a share of a £1 million funding pot to deliver the recommendations outlined in Mary Portas’ review.

Coun Derek Richmond, portfolio holder for the town centre, said: “I do believe that Boston is very well placed to make a successful bid and we have a wealth of projects to shout about. It needs the joined up effort of everyone who has a stake in the town to get behind this.

“We cannot hide from the fact that high streets and town centres right across the country are in difficult times, not only because of the economic downturn but also due to the changing face of retailing and the changing habits and demands of customers.

“The Mary Portas Review highlights this and suggests that we look to have ‘town teams’ that bring all together with an interest in the future wellbeing of the high street and put new ideas and initiatives into action.

“In Boston we are not short on ideas or vision for the town centre and the soon-to-be completed Market Place works, the creation of new spaces, the return of Boston Market, grants schemes for shops and, of course, all of the work that BID is doing already provides a great basis for a town team.

“Being able to be a ‘Portas Pilot’ will provide us with much-needed further investment to turn ideas into actions, but even without this, if we can secure the constructive support of the town centre businesses and if we all work together well, I do think Boston has a great future.”