Burnley bids for more Mary Portas cash to improve town centre

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BURNLEY is to get £100,000 of Government funding to improve the town centre.

The town is one of 100 in the country to be given the cash, part of a £10m. High Street Innovation Fund announced by local government Minister Grant Shapps.

On Friday, council chiefs also submitted two Mary Portas bids which could see a further £200,000 invested in Burnley and Padiham to improve the appearance of empty buildings and provide start-up help for new businesses. Just 12 towns, from 400, will get the chance to become “Portas pilots,” to test the recommendations of shops guru Mary Portas on how to breathe new life into high streets.

The first bid, for £96,000 on behalf of the Standish Street Traders’ Group, has been put together with the Town Centre Partnership and Chamber of Trade. A second application for £100,000 has also been drawn up for Padiham Town Centre, to run alongside the £100,000 contribution already pledged by Tesco to support town centre measures.

Council chiefs said they were surprised but welcomed the High Street Innovation Grant.

But they added it was unclear what the money would be used for until they know whether the two other bids have been a success.

Mr Colin Hill, the council’s head of facilities management, said: “With more than 400 Portas bids submitted nationwide, competition for 12 awards will be fierce.”

In recent weeks Burnley has seen high street chains Peacocks, HMV, Birthdays and Past Times close, and last week computer games store Gamestation was shut by administrators.

“In terms of what we will do with the money from the High Street Innovation Fund Grant we need to await the outcome of the Portas bid, to see if either the Standish Street or Padiham bid or both are successful before committing this new grant elsewhere,” added Mr Hill.

“Both of the bids submitted have similar themes to match landlord contributions to improve the appearance of vacant premises, to involve landlords in assisting start-up businesses with matched rent contributions, and assistance for new start-ups with grants for equipment and shop fitting.

“In Padiham’s case, it is also about establishing a town team to work together to meet the challenges facing existing independent retailers when the new Tesco supermarket opens.

“If we are not successful with either of the Mary Portas bids then some of the ideas put forward may possibly then be funded from this surprise award.

“What we will do, however, is take some time to properly consider what impact would best be seen in both Burnley and Padiham, from the additional monies that have been awarded.

“There will be no knee-jerk reaction to this but a properly thought out way forward with our partners that looks to consider current bid proposals in conjunction with physical town centre improvements already now underway and to maximise whatever opportunity we have.”