Review for Portas bid after failure

Mary Portas
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COUNCIL chiefs are reviewing their bid for government cash after being rejected in the Portas Pilot first round.

More than 370 towns and cities submitted a bid to become one of 12 to receive help from the government and retail guru Mary Portas.

North Tyneside Council submitted a bid for the three main towns – Whitley Bay, Wallsend and North Shields.

But last week the authority was told it was not successful, although would be available to submit a second application with another round of Portas Pilots expected to be announced later this year.

Despite the setback, the council believes high streets in the borough are not as bad as other parts of the country.

Mayor Linda Arkley said: “We’re committed to protecting and revitalising our town centres.

“The focus in this first round of Portas Pilots appears to be on those town centres that are struggling most.

“While we’re obviously disappointed not to receive the funding, it perhaps reflects the fact our town vacancy rates are lower and the effectiveness of our partnership with the Retail Centres Task Group.

“Our team is now reviewing and strengthening our bid ahead of the second round.”

Owners of the Forum Shopping Centre in Wallsend say it is vital to have a dynamic town centre experience.

NewRiver Retail Ltd, with a portfolio of 14 regional shopping centres, were disappointed to see Wallsend miss out but believe the Portas Pilot could be a catalyst for town centres to take stock and move forward with blue sky thinking.

Property director Allan Lockhart said: “NewRiver take a very pro-active approach to our shopping centres.

“We know they form an integral part of the town’s identity.

“The development and growth of the town can only be achieved by a truly joined up approach engaging all the key stakeholders and community.”

He added: “For our towns to thrive we need to create a dynamic town centre experience and use the internet as an opportunity not a threat creating ‘digital high streets’ and social destinations.

“We’re excited to see the Portas Pilot has this as an integral part of its selection criteria as this is part of the NewRiver development strategy.”

“Mary Portas’ view that town centre revitalisation ‘rests with the people who live and do business there’ absolutely aligns with the NewRiver strategy in this way.

“It requires grass root collaboration, we have got the key stakeholders and local community around the table not just to talk but to commit and deliver.

“It is no coincidence that the name of our shopping centre in Wallsend is ‘The Forum’.”