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Frome misses out in first round of Portas Pilots

FROME’S initial bid to become a ‘Portas Pilot’ town has been unsuccessful, but the town team say they will nevertheless continue to work on improvements for the town.

Meanwhile, the town still has the chance to be chosen in a second round this summer. The first Portas Pilot towns were recently announced. These pilot towns receive a slice of £1.2million and a tailored package of support to help them implement ideas to rejuvenate the town centre and test out measures in Mary Portas’ High Street Review.

Over 370 applications to be a Portas Pilot were received, with 12 towns selected. They are Bedford, Croydon, Dartford in Kent, Bedminster in Bristol, Liskeard, Margate, Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, Nelson in Lancashire, Newbiggin by the Sea in Northumberland, Stockport, Stockton on Tees, and Wolverhampton. The town team and Frome Town Council say it is difficult to judge why Frome was not selected, as they are not able to see the judging criteria. Councillor Mel Usher leader of the council said, “We always knew it was a long shot and the odds were high with 370 towns making submissions. There is no feedback from government about why bids were not successful so we will be looking at the successful bids to see what interesting points they have made. In the end however we must do what is right for Frome, each town is different and blindly copying the thoughts of others has always been a recipe for disaster in regeneration. From personal knowledge I know that some of the towns selected such as Margate, Nelson and Newbiggin have town centres that are struggling more than ours. We will stay focussed on the town centre and already we are beginning to see a difference in the revival of the markets.”

A recent meeting for the town team was held to judge enthusiasm for continuing the town team concept, regardless of the bid outcome and what form it should take. Over 40 groups and individuals have expressed an interest, giving the team a broad range of skills and experience to draw upon. There was a strong feeling that results are important; a rolling programme of actions facilitated by the team but carried forward by smaller groups of local expertise should be the goal. With or without additional government funding therefore Frome Town Team will continue and aim to make suggestions for improvements to the town centre. See more about what is happening on Facebook (Frome Town Team) and Twitter (@FromeTownTeam) where anyone can comment and voice their ideas.

A second round will see 15 more towns selected as Portas Pilots by the end of July. The initiative follows the publication of The Portas Review, an independent review into the future of the country’s high streets, by retail guru Mary Portas in December 2011.