Lowestoft’s bid for town centre success is examined by government minister
- Credit: James Bass
A bid to boost Lowestoft town centre by helping to make it a top shopping destination has been scrutinised by a government minister.
On Tuesday Mark Prisk, the minister responsible for the regeneration of town centres and high streets, was given a whistle stop tour of the town to see how businesses have bandied together to create an ambition vision for Lowestoft.
As he walked along the town centre Mr Prisk was joined by members of Lowestoft Vision which was given a mandate in May by people in the town to lead the regeneration of the area under the auspices of a Business Improvement District (BID).
The five-year BID plans to increase footfall in the town were made possible after Lowestoft was awarded £100,000 of Portas Pilot Town money from the government last year.
Some of the money has already be spent on improving the town centre, such as two Lowestoft Street Ambassadors, and the vision team's recently appointed board is looking at key areas to help the resort, including car parking cleanliness and maintenance.
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Mr Prisk, who was involved in the granting of Portas Pilot grants across the country, said he had wanted visit Lowestoft to see how it was leading the way in showing how communities can determine their futures.
He said: 'It is good to see businesses in Lowestoft are getting together for the benefit of the town. I think Lowestoft is at the forefront of the Bid and Portas pilot process and it is moving in the right direction.
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'I am impressed by the team of people here who are all working hard for Lowestoft.'
Emma King, the Bid manager for Lowestoft Vision and the town centre manager, escorted Mr Prisk through the town centre. She said: 'He remarked that we have got a very close knit team working hard for the benefit of the future of Lowestoft. For me his visit was recognition of the hard work we have all been putting in.'
Also joining Mr Prisk was Lowestoft Street Ambassador Steven Collier, who is now a common sight in the town centre giving directions and help to shoppers and tourists, including handing out maps and providing first aid if needed.
Mr Collier and fellow ambassador Jason Grant have now been funded full time for the next five years following a successful trial period.
He said: 'We are the face of the town and we are getting more and more recognition form people.'
Waveney MP Peter Aldous also joined the ministerial tour.
He said: 'Lowestoft is an example of how people can come together with a common purpose and aim to improve their town centres.
'Lowestoft Vision is already doing a fantastic job for the town.'
John Dugmore, the chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'A great deal of hard work has gone into Lowestoft Vision.
'Business knows what business needs and it is right that the leaders of local commerce are leading the regeneration of the town centre.'
The Lowestoft Bid started on August 1.
It sees businesses in the town paying a levy to Lowestoft Vision to improve and enhance their trading environment to increase footfall.
There are 150 BIDs in the UK, which over the next five years will bring about £250m to improve their town and city centres.
Great Yarmouth was the first successful BID in East Anglia.
Lowestoft gained Portas Pilot Town status in July 2012 - one of 27 such government schemes across the country influenced by Mary Portas, from the television programme Mary Queen of Shops.