Ashford wins Portas Pilot bid
Ashford is to become one of 15 new Portas Pilot towns, after being chosen in the second round of bids.
The borough beat around 400 towns to be selected by the Government to become one of retail guru Mary Portas’ pilot high streets, which will see the town centre benefit from invaluable support, advice and extra funding.
The bid was highlighted for its innovative proposals and the way it embraced new technology as well as providing a good case study for other towns to follow.
Ashford’s plans include using more innovative ideas to revitalise the market and make it a destination point for shoppers, developing a virtual high street and smartphone app to guide shoppers through the town, and creating stronger links between the town centre and the popular Ashford Designer Outlet.
Leader of Ashford Borough Council Cllr Peter Wood said: “This is excellent news, and we are delighted and proud that Ashford has been selected as a Portas Pilot town.
“Our town is bursting with potential, and our hard-working businesses and residents deserve the support – and the national recognition – that this scheme will bring.
“We believe that, with high speed services and a regenerated town, Ashford is heading firmly in the right direction and the support we will receive as a result of this success will help to enhance the opportunities available to us and move the town centre to a stronger and more vibrant level.”
The second round 15 Portas Pilot winners were announced by Minister for Housing and Local Government Grant Shapps on Wednesday 25th July.
Ashford MP Damian Green said: “This is great news for Ashford and shows what we can do when the whole town pulls together. We must use this as a springboard to take the town centre to a new level.”
The bid would not have worked without the support, passion and determination of local businesses. The bid was accompanied by 50 letters of support from local businesses, and a petition backing the bid signed by 165 town centre retailers. The bid’s Facebook page has 306 likes, and Ashford’s YouTube video received more than 1,800 views.
David Church chair of the Ashford Town Centre Partnership said: “This is excellent news for Ashford and for the businesses in the Town Centre, it is great to see what can be achieved when businesses come together to support innovative projects that will help transform the heart of Ashford into a 21st century town centre.”
Ashford re-submitted its bid in June, after not being selected in the first round of bids.
The chosen towns get a share of a £1.5million funding pot, and invaluable national support and guidance on revitalising their town centres. The £100,000 from government will also be match funded by an additional £100,000 from contributions through the planning agreements to revitalise the Town Centre.
The 14 other towns are: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Brighton, Hatfield, Leamington, Liverpool, Lowestoft, Morecame, Rotherham, Tiverton as well as the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets.
Among the town centre businesses and stakeholders backing the bid are Damian Green MP, the Homes and Communities Agency, Linda’s Florist, Right Track Music, AHBS Radio, The George Hotel, Pillow Talk Ashford, McDonalds, Taylor Riley, Swagger, The Chilli Bite, HR Go Recruitment, Chocolate Box, Stage Coach, Central Ashford Community Forum, Kent County Council, Colyer Commercial, Zoe Alexander UK, Devine & Sons Cleaning, Kentish Express, Angels Hair and Beauty, Wilkins Kennedy, CMDL, Leaver’s Tobacconists, Liquid & Envy, and Ashford Market.
The successful bids come from mix of areas from a variety of town centres and high streets across a geographical spread including market towns, villages, large towns, new towns, coastal towns and suburban areas. The pilots cover both high / low average income levels and high / low empty shop vacancy rates.
The chosen pilots have demonstrated a transformational vision for their high street and strong support from the local community and a wide range of local partners to make it a reality. The lead partner clearly articulated this vision and demonstrated strong support from the local community and a wide range of local partners.
The pilots also demonstrated:
strong leadership – pilots areas clearly articulated and delivered a transformational vision for their high street
commitment – demonstrated maximum commitment to the Town Team approach amongst retailers, landlords, the local authority and the local community or community groups.
potential for improvement – clear articulation of the problems and challenges, including proposing solutions that would bring real change to their high street.
innovation – set out the most innovative ideas that would have maximum impact and can be replicated elsewhere.