Towns bid for Portas scheme

Retail guru Mary Portas

Retail guru Mary Portas

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Bedale and Leyburn are in the running for a national scheme aiming to breed new life into town centres.

They are two of the candidates to become ‘Portas Pilots’ which, when announced, will share a £1million fund to drive innovation and improvements to the way town centres are managed.

The Portas Review was released at the end of last year – commissioned by central government from leading retail and marketing consultant Mary Portas.

She concluded that while there is an increase in popularity in out of town retail centres and the internet, high streets were still important hubs.

She made 28 recommendations on what could be done to breathe new life into them, to be tested through a series of pilots.

Hambleton and Richmondshire District Councils, working with the local Strategic Forum, has submitted bids for the market towns of Bedale and Leyburn which are both described as having great community spirit and the ability to be ‘made better’.

“Partnership working is well-established in both towns,” said Mark Haynes, business and community officer.

“In Leyburn, the Lower Wensleydale Area Partnership acts as the town team and is well-supported by key players in the business world, while in Bedale we have a vibrant town facing a number of challenges – especially empty spaces above shops and traffic congestion.

“We believe success in these bids will help breathe new life into two attractive towns and bring organisations together to work to one common goal of making them better.”

In Leyburn, focus would be on building on the current strengths and character of the town, its businesses and its residents – selling the market place as a place for the discerning consumer that wants more than a shopping trip.

Schemes amounting to £72,000 – with £63,000 from the Portas pot – are being suggested, including extending opening hours, installing market place wifi, a town loyalty card, and improved parking.

Bedale is looking for £71,000 of a £76,000 package of proposals for a new car park design, loyalty card scheme, town awards project and improved marketing for the town and its new businesses.

Ripon, in the borough of Harrogate, has also submitted a bid.

The results of the bids are expected later this month.