Action for Market Towns and Co-operative offer extra help to Portas Pilot schemes

Unsuccessful Portas Pilot schemes in Norfolk and Suffolk are being offered extra help and support in a bid to maintain the enthusiasm in rejuvenating local high streets.

Scores of groups and partnerships were left disappointed last month after the government announced the first 12 winners of a �1.2m project to revitalise town centres.

But town teams have been offered an extra lifeline to get investment after Bury St Edmunds-based Action for Market Towns (AMT) offered to help get 10 unsuccessful bids off the ground. The national charity has teamed up with the Co-operative Group to offer financial support.

Bids were submitted on behalf of Aylsham, Brandon, Diss, Great Yarmouth, Halesworth, Hunstanton, Lowestoft, North Walsham, Southwold, Thetford and Wisbech in the first round of the Portas Pilot amongst 370 applications from towns across the country.

ATM and the Co-operative are hoping to keep town teams going by offering to fund research into 10 fledgling town teams. They will perform a 'town benchmarking' service looking at the performance of high streets and how a town compares with others regionally and nationally.

Chris Wade, chief executive of AMT, said: 'Town Benchmarking enables towns to identify their strengths and weaknesses, develop clear strategies, and even access funding; by gaining a better understanding of their towns, Town Teams can plan with a clear and relevant focus and ambition.'

Those unsuccessful in the first round of the Portas Pilot scheme are set to be entered into a second round of the competition, which will see 15 additional pilots announced by the end of next month.

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Jonathan Newman, Great Yarmouth town centre manager, said it was important that town teams carried on regardless and maintained the enthusiasm for high street improvements.

• AMT will be staging a 'Marketing your Town' workshop at the Diss Corn Hall on Thursday.

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