Lowestoft Town Team in bid for high street cash

RETAIL leaders are stepping up their campaign to attract more shoppers and visitors to Lowestoft by bidding for a slice of a �1m scheme to rejuvenate the nation's high streets, it emerged this week.

They hope Lowestoft can become one of just 12 places in the country to win selection for the Portas Pilot Town Scheme, set up by the government under the guidance of retail guru Mary Portas.

A new Lowestoft Town Team has been established to drive the bid which has won the support of Waveney District Council and Waveney MP Peter Aldous – and which could secure up to �100,000. But it will face fierce competition to win selection, with Halesworth and Southwold among the many towns submitting bids.

The news comes only three weeks after The Journal revealed that business leaders were launching a new campaign for a Business Improvement District (BID) in Lowestoft. However, its backers say this initiative 'will complement and run alongside' the Portas Pilot Bid in their efforts to promote and enhance the town.

Mr Aldous, who is a member of the town team, has written to the minister for local government, Grant Shapps, to promote Lowestoft's Portas Pilot Town bid.

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He told The Journal: 'I am delighted to be part of the town team, which is submitting the bid and which has put together a carefully thought-through set of proposals that address the challenges that we face and also set out the vision for an exciting future.

'Being a Portas Pilot would raise Lowestoft's potential and would act as a catalyst for the town to realise its full potential, creating jobs and making the high street once again the hub of a vibrant and busy community.'

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The pilot town scheme was launched after Ms Portas joined forces with the government to spearhead a campaign to revitalise town centres amid increasing competition from the internet and out-of-town supermarkets.

Her report, the Portas review, published in December last year, made 28 recommendations about what could be done to breathe life back into towns and offer help to smaller, independent retailers.

The Lowestoft Town Team plans to submit its bid by the end of the month, together with a video of the town centre.

The bid document states: 'More than a vision, there is an active need and acknowledgement between all parties (making up the town team) to bring back shoppers and businesses into the town.

'Additionally, the vision is to draw day-trippers and holiday makers from the beaches, to shop and dine within the town and discover the diverse range of shops in the historic high street and Kirkley.'

With nine 'challenges' for the town listed in the pilot bid brief, it adds: 'The Portas Pilots competition comes at an exciting turn point for the town. The (Anglian Water) roadworks have just been completed and the town is about to embark on a Town Centre BID bringing back both Town Centre Businesses and shoppers alike.'

The Town Team's says that, if successful, money secured from the pilot town scheme could be to enhance the proposed Business Improvement District in Lowestoft and lead to: more proactive use of compulsory purchase order powers to bring key properties back into use; establishment of a mentoring scheme between the larger and smaller traders within the town; the introduction of town rangers; and work to find parking solutions.

The 'innovative ideas' the team would like to test include a town discount or loyalty scheme; an area with seating for performers/cookery demonstrations in the Old High Street/Triangle area; a Shuttle Bus from major edge-of-town car parks and using the London Road South shopping area to help draw for customers into the town centre.

Colin Law, Waveney District Council leader, said: 'I am absolutely delighted that Lowestoft is joining Southwold and Halesworth in bidding to become a pilot town for Mary Portas's exciting new scheme. There will be considerable competition for the available funding. However Waveney will do all it can to help put our towns in the spotlight.'

Mr Aldous added: 'Lowestoft has a great story to tell and being a Portas Pilot would provide an ideal opportunity to put local innovative ideas into practice that will create jobs and promote the town centre as a shopping and leisure destination.'

Emma King, Town Centre Manager, added: 'I am delighted to be working with Tanya Cable, regeneration funding manager at Waveney District council, on the submission of a bid for the Portas Pilot scheme.

'Its very exciting for Lowestoft and will be a great achievement if we get it, the timing is perfect too as this will compliment and run alongside the Business Improvement District (BID) through Lowestoft Vision.

'Lowestoft is very lucky to have two such large opportunities to take part in and we look forward to working for a very bright future for our town.'

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