Posted on 23.3.12 by Christian Mancier
Once again Mary Portas has been dominating the headlines both nationally, with her new programme on manufacturing underwear, and locally with the announcement that Stockport Council is leading a bid for Stockport to become one of the 12 “Portas Pilots”.
So what is a Portas Pilot?
Last year Mary Portas was asked by the Government to conduct an independent review into the future of our high streets. Her report came up with 28 recommendations on how the high streets of the future could become “multi-functional and social places bustling with people, services and jobs”. It is not possible to detail all of the recommendations here, but the one that has received the most coverage is the creation of 12 high street ‘pilots’, that will receive funding and support to test the ideas from the Portas Review.
In order to become a Portas Pilot, towns need to create a “Town Team” – a public/private body made up of retailers and traders, landlords, non-retail businesses, community groups, local authority groups and MPs. Together, the Town Team will act as “Champions of Change” setting out a clear vision for the town and managing the delivery of that vision.
Stockport town centre is not unique in the challenges we face from internet trading and out-of-town shopping centres and over 300 towns are expected to apply to become a Portas Pilot, so competition is going to be tough. If we are successful the funding available is not a great amount in the scheme of things, at a maximum of £100,000. However, what the bid has already achieved is bringing together lots of different businesses who are passionate about making Stockport town centre a great place to be, whether its for shopping, leisure, culture or work.
We have already had one public meeting on the subject, attended by over 50 businesses that were bubbling with ideas. It was great to see such enthusiasm and if we keep that momentum going and all pull together for the benefit of Stockport, the Portas bid (whether successful or not) could be a real catalyst for change.