Meeting to discuss Lowestoft town centre plan funding

SHOPKEEPERS and business owners in Lowestoft are being challenged to come up with fresh and innovative ideas next week to boost the town's appeal to shoppers and draw in new visitors.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has arranged a meeting on Monday to discuss setting up a 'town team' to access up to �100,000 of government funding. If traders show enough support, he is hoping Lowestoft can submit a bid for a share of a national pot of �1m to drive the town forward commercially and help it produce an action plan.

Nationally, 12 towns will be selected to take part in a �1m town team pilot scheme.

It has been set up after the high-profile report last year on the future of the country's high streets by retail expert Mary Portas, star of the BBC television programme, Mary Queen of Shops.

One of Ms Portas's 28 recommendations to protect and breathe fresh life into town centres was the setting up of teams to create a 'visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for high streets'.

The pilot scheme will also be used to test the validity of Ms Portas's other recommendations, such as having a national market day, free parking schemes, cutting red tape and allowing councils to take over empty shops.

Mr Aldous said Lowestoft should apply to be one of the 12 towns in the pilot scheme as it had a lot to offer.

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He said: 'I think Lowestoft has a very good story to tell. I believe we have an old fashioned high street which is steeped in history and we have the Scores which are unique. It is all about making Lowestoft even more attractive to get more people coming into the town.

'The town plan could be a catalyst. Even if we don't get the money then Monday's meeting will enable us to explore and examine blueprints we could put into action.'

Mr Aldous also said the Kirkley area would benefit from having a town team, which could also look at ways of sprucing up the area and promoting its own retail area.

The national town team pilot scheme is being funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government, which is seeking applications until March 30.

Launching the town team scheme, Grant Shapps, minister of state for local government, said; 'We are asking local leaders to come up with innovative ideas of their own to boost struggling high streets and town centres.

'I want to see local leaders ready to try new things, experiment and innovate so that their high streets and parades become the place to be for local people and visitors alike.'

Mr Aldous's town team meeting is taking place at 2pm at his constituency office in Surrey Street and it is open to any local traders or shop owners. For further information call 01502 359980.

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