More than 300 towns are set to fight it out to become one of a dozen ‘Portas pilots’.

The huge response to Mary Portas’ proposals has forced local government minister Grant Shapps to launch a series of roadshows across the country, starting next week.

Backed by the Association of Town Centre Management, events in Solihull, Bristol, Bolton and London will see Department for Communities & Local Government experts provide advice on preparing bids.

Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the ATCM, said the government also wanted to ensure those who missed out on pilot funding were not left behind.

“I can’t remember anything like it,” he said of the level of response. “But of those 300, only 12 are going to get funding and we don’t want the other 288 left alienated.”

Shapps added: “In the face of stiff competition from internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres, it’s clear our high streets need to offer something new if they’re to survive.

“That’s why I’ve urgently implemented two of the most important recommendations from Mary Portas’ review, to find twelve ’Portas pilot’ areas that can use their enthusiasm, energy and imagination to put into practice their innovative ideas for breathing new life into their town centres.”

The deadline for bids is 30 March, with the winners each collecting £100,000 to spend revitalising their town centres.