The government has scrapped plans to select a group of towns and cities to trial the most successful ideas identified by the Mary Portas high street rescue mission, amid fears of too many different competing strategies.
Under proposals that had been spearheaded by the UK MD of Costa coffee Jason Cotta, the DCLG had proposed selecting nine locations for a rollout of what it had described as the “common factors of success” - identified by the experience of more than 400 Portas Pilots and town teams.
However, the Grocer understands the plan to select nine new towns - one from each region of the country - has now been “quietly dropped”, partly because of a clash with the Business in the Community (BITC) Healthy High Streets campaign, which is carrying out a selection process to pick 100 towns to receive a major package of support from leading retailers.
Instead Cotta’s project, which will encourage towns to set three to five-year “town visions” reviewed annually against a set of targets, will be made available to all towns without specific pilots being selected.
This week was the deadline for towns bidding to be chosen as part of the BITC plan. This involves a promise of heavyweight support from The Co-operative Group, M&S, Boots and Santander, which they claim will create 3,000 jobs, boost footfall by 10% and slash empty units by 20% in the next three years.
“We’re confident we will have a good number of applications from which to select the first set of towns for support,” said BITC enterprise director Jane Pritchard. “Applications are coming in daily.”