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15 March 2012, 17:08 | Updated: 15 March 2012, 17:11
Four towns on the Suffolk Coast are working together to become one of England's dozen Town Teams, which would see them benefit from a share of £1 million under the Portas Pilots scheme to help attract more people into their high streets.
Framlingham, Leiston, Saxmundham and Aldeburgh have already been working closely together for some time under the banner of The Heritage Coast Market Towns Initiative (HCMTI) which has been funded by Suffolk Coastal District Council, Suffolk County Council and Magnox.
Annette Mason-Gordon, HCMTI Project Coordinator said "The Business Associations in the four towns have been working together positively to promote our own unique mixture of local businesses in the face of stiff competition from Internet shopping and the economic downturn. Becoming one of the Portas Pilots would would be a great chance for us to redouble our efforts to attract people to the local shopping experience and bring in new reasons to visit our centres. We are already widening our network to work more closely with the Town Councils, major retailers, landlords and other pillars of the community which is in line with the recently published recommendations of the Mary Portas High Street Review."
Mary Portas, the retail consultant, was asked by the Government to review the state of English high streets and her report, published last December, concluded that most had a fight on their hands to survive, and that the only hope that high streets have of surviving in the future is to deliver something new.
The Portas Pilots scheme has been created following her report to meet her vision of finding and nurturing 'tomorrow's innovators and ideas that will create the new sustainable high streets of the future'. In her report she says 'fundamentally I believe that our high streets are uniquely placed to deliver something new. I believe that our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community.'
"I think that over the last year or so the HCMTI has been showing the energy, enthusiasm and vision that are helping to make a real difference to the four towns' high streets. I wish them every success with their bid to become one of the pilot projects as they are already well placed and experienced to use the support of Mary Portas and the Government to really put these centres of the community back into being the true hubs of their local areas" said Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal's Cabinet Member for Leisure and Economic Development.
The closing date for the applications, together with their supporting video setting out why the town should be chosen, is Friday March 30th.
Successful bids are expected to be announced in May and, in addition to benefiting from a financial boost of up to £100,000, will receive the expert support of Mary Portas and the Government as they try out the ideas in her recent review.