Traders joy as �100,000 Mary Portas cash comes to Lowestoft

WE did it!

That was the jubilant message from traders and business leaders in Lowestoft this week after the town secured up to �100,000 to rejuvenate its main shopping areas.

Lowestoft beat about 400 communities nationwide to be selected for a pilot scheme spearheaded by retail guru Mary Portas, which offered towns a slice of �1.5m to test her ideas for regeneration.

Among those left disappointed were Southwold and Halesworth.

Emma King, Lowestoft's town centre manager, spoke of her joy at the successful bid.

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She said: 'This is an enormous achievement for Lowestoft and is real recognition for a town which has faced difficulties but, due to the passion of the people working within it, has managed to ride the storms and can now look towards a positive future.'

'Over the last few years, the Lowestoft Town Management Partnership (LTMP) has already developed a town team which includes a variety of both independent and national retailers, the police, Waveney District Council, the church and more. The team has become a strong 'voice' for the town, in line with the Portas approach, and we now look forward to developing this and other projects with the funding received.'

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The government launched the pilot town scheme to help high streets fight fierce competition from internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres. Initially, 12 towns were awarded Portas Pilot status, before the government invited towns to reapply for 15 new projects.

Lowestoft's winning bid included plans to increase footfall in the town centre and Kirkley by launching a mentoring scheme between larger and smaller traders; creating Town Rangers to provide security and information to shoppers; a new Lowestoft Town group discount scheme and new marketing boards to highlight attractions.

Colin Law, leader of Waveney District Council, said: 'This is absolutely wonderful news for the town and to be chosen from over 300 different bids is a very great achievement. We have worked closely in partnership with LTMP and it is because of our shared aspirations and determination that we have reached our goal. Every town faces its challenges but we have risen above the others by showing a real passion allied to great ideas and sound business principles. This is just the beginning and we cannot wait to make Lowestoft an even greater place to be.'

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: 'Emma King and the rest of her team have put a lot of hard work into this and creating a really strong bid...

'It is a great reward for their efforts and they have set out a number of initiatives to get people back into Lowestoft and show people what we have got here. I look forward to working with them in the future.'

Meanwhile, Guy Mitchell, chairman of the Southwold chamber of trade, spoke of his disappointment after Southwold's bid failed.

He said: 'We are sorry to hear we missed out, but we want Southwold to remain a vibrant high street with a diverse range of businesses that are able to offer something different to the high street chains. We have introduced the My Southwold scheme to encourage people to spend with local businesses.'

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