Hopes for high street lifeline

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WIGAN town centre is hoping for further help for the high street despite missing out in a second round of grants.

Earlier this year, high street bosses applied to become one of a handful of towns to gain a share of £1m to rejuvenate the shopping area, known as the Portas Pilot, under the Mary Portas Review.

They lost out on the first round of 12 in May and were not one of the 15 to picked in this week’s round two either, but Local Government Minister Grant Shapps has issued a call to MPs from the 392 areas not chosen - including Wigan - to sign a national pledge to become a Town Team Partner.

Those that sign up will receive backing from a big money support programme to help put elements of their plans into action. They will also have the opportunity to:

l Attend events, workshops and seminars across the country addressing key challenges facing struggling town centres;

l Receive direct mentoring support and visits from experts with a range of relevant backgrounds;

l Meet regularly with town teams across the country to share their experiences and lessons learned;

l Join an online community to receive tips and advice from retail experts;

l Benefit from a new web-based encyclopaedia – 100 Ways to Help the High Street, which will be hosted and run by the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM).

l The ATCM will also work with the areas selected as Town Team Partners to help them progress their proposals.

This additional package of support forms part of a wider response to Mary Portas’s Review published last December.

All town teams from across the country will also be able to bid for a £1m Future High Street X-Fund to reward the most effective and creative schemes to encourage people back to the town centres in 2013, and a £500,000 fund to help access set-up loans for new Business Improvement Districts. Richard Paxton, centre director of The Galleries, said: “It is very disappointing that Wigan has not been selected as part of the second round of Portas Pilots.

“But this will not stop our enthusiasm to develop the vitality and vibrancy of Wigan town centre. Along with Wigan Council, the town centre stakeholders will continue to work together, with the support of the Portas Town Team Partners, to deliver an improved high street.”