'Portas Pilot' Entries - A Few Favourites...
Housing & Local Government Minister Grant Shapps tweeted yesterday that the successful bids for town centre regeneration funds via the 'Portas Pilot' scheme will be announced at the end of the month.
With hundreds of entries reportedly clamouring for the cash, I had a look at a few of the video entries to get an impression of how the town teams were going about pitching to the government.
With an extremely broad creative brief, it is of little surprise that each submission differs from the last - and as such, it's extremely difficult to judge which ones will be successful. There are some which unimaginatively point the camera at vacant stores with the word 'Help' emblazoned across the screen, and others who have clearly tried to stand out by engaging the town in wacky dance routines in various (former) retail hotspots.
The ones which I found most appealing came from towns such as St. Austell, Warwick, Grantham and Aylsham; as they seemed to have more of a focus on what their towns specifically require in order to regain the vitality of ages past - and already appear to have a plan as to how best use the government cash.
There were also interesting entries from Ripon and St. Ives, who have focused their regeneration plans around unique heritage sites, and embraced the potential of tourism to help boost town centre footfall.
The most bizarre entry comes from Exmouth; wherein a teenage girl is apparently beamed down from space, and then escorted around the town by someone looking suspiciously like her sister, before concluding that the townsfolk are spending entirely too much time larking about by the beach, and not enough on their 'quite nice' high street, before she's whisked back into the orbit. The tagline, 'bring them here, keep them here", is altogether more sinister than was surely intended.
Also, if you'd like to see perhaps the worst impression of Mary Portas ever performed - check out Tamworth's effort.
Some common themes mentioned in almost every entry are the failure of councils to come up with innovative town-centre-saving solutions over a number of years (or even decades); the cost of town centre parking or the lack thereof; proliferation of supermarkets & out-of-town developments causing town centres to falter, and the impact that on-line shopping has had on the high street. These, of course, are aspects that the government and Ms. Portas are already painfully aware of.
One wonders how the winners will eventually be chosen. Do the video entries carry as much weight as the application form? If so, does 'view count' get factored into the final reckoning? Are CACI ratings consulted in order to determine the most deserving of town centre investment?
We'll find out in a couple of weeks - but for now, I'll champion Warwick's entry one last time...local bias at it's best!
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