Norfolk town’s Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, funding bid could take step forward

A major initiative to boost a Norfolk town centre, with a little help from the Queen of Shops, could take a big step forward at a meeting on Thursday.

Key figures within the Diss community, including councillors, landlords and retailers, are set to meet at the town's Corn Hall to discuss ideas for improving the town and the possibility of setting up a 'Town Team,' comprised of business leaders and local dignitaries, to fight for a share of �1m available through the Portas Pilots scheme established by TV star Mary Portas to rejuvenate town centres.

Diss town clerk Deborah Sarson, who has helped organise the meeting, said she had 11 responses in the last week from people interested in attending the meeting, though she believed the total number would be higher with more people attending on the day.

She hoped the attendeees could agree to form the foundations for a Town Team to meet one of the key criteria for securing potentially up to �80,000 of Portas funding, which was that applicant towns had to have a team set up to work with Portas and local government minister Grant Schapps. The 12 successful bidding towns will also have made a Youtube video of their ideas.

Ms Sarson said if Diss was successful, the money could pay for a new neighbourhood plan to be drawn up, which would give residents the chance to have a say in how the town develops in the future, particularly where residential development takes place and how employment opportunities are created, but also how they see the town centre developing in the future.

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She added possible topics for discussion could be introducing two hours free parking in town centre car parks and better signs so visitors could easily find their way around town. She said: 'I think we need to come out of this meeting with a clear idea of what we might be able to do. We need a deliverable project.'

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