Taunton awaits Portas Pilot results
By marion_TLocal | Sunday, April 29, 2012, 18:46
Taunton Town Team were one of 371 entries to become one of 12 Portas Pilot towns and receive a share of £1.2m and support from the Government and retail guru Mary Portas to improve their town centre.
Taunton town centre activities-Lorna & Freya
Minister Grant Shapps was so impressed with the response,he announced a second round of pilots last week. The results of the first round will be known very shortly.
Grant Shapps said:"I am delighted by the enthusiastic and energetic response from towns up and down the country, as they have used Mary Portas's review as a real catalyst for change to secure the future of their high streets.
"High streets have faced stiff challenges from Internet shopping and out-of-town centres, yet there is still a clear desire from communities to see them survive. We have received a fantastic 371 bids to become one of the first 12 Portas pilots.
"That's why, as part of our Portas Plus response to Mary's review, I've launched a second round of this competition to find a further 12 pilot areas. I now look forward to watching the YouTube videos and seeing how communities have come together for myself."
Mary Portas said: "The significant work, creative energy and coming together of communities across the country that is evident in films they have made has confirmed my belief that the British public really care about their high streets. I promise to give as much back. We will work to recreate and redefine the British high street and town centre, making them places local communities are proud of."
One of the questions being asked on the streets of Taunton was did people want more street theatre and family activities, like Courtney's Petting Farm which was in the Orchard Centre for the first time at Easter and had been at the special Christmas festival.
Talking to mum, Lorna with her baby girl Freya, enjoying the petting farm, she said definitely more things like that were a great idea to make the shopping experience more fun and bring people into the town centre. She also commented good play areas were really important and Vivary park was now great but she hoped there would be improvements to Killams where she lived.
The latest improvement by Project Taunton is a touch of what they have called Guerrilla gardening in Somerset Square by the Brewhouse Theatre, although I don't think that title applies when someone has official permission to garden. They are planting thyme, which is a nice smelling herb but will also have flowers to attract bees, very important right now.
Grant Shapps has also announced:
- a £1million Future High Street X-Fund, which will be awarded to areas with the most creative and effective schemes to rejuvenate their town centres;
- a National Markets Day, launching a National Markets Fortnight, to celebrate the role markets can play and offer budding entrepreneurs the chance to test their business ideas; and
- a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help town centres access loans for their set-up costs