A new smartphone app to review the Portas Pilots is the latest tool in the battle to save the British high street.
Businesses involved in the 27 Portas Pilot towns, and more than 300 town teams receiving government funding, will trial the app from next week.
It will allow users - made up of town planners and businesses involved in the projects - to instantly upload their thoughts on town centre regeneration projects, including initial impressions, the overall appearance, car parking and pedestrian areas.
The hope is it will help them share ideas more easily between different parts of the country. The progress of the pilots has so far been infamously piecemeal.
Thousands of people involved in the scheme will eventually be given free access to the technology and be urged to give their verdict on initiatives including pop-up shops, market days and night time economies.
“This began as a paper project,” said Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Association of Town and City Management, which is heading the project to oversee the pilots backed by a £1m government grant. “We were encouraging town planners to visit other towns and give their verdict but this will make it much easier and enable us to evolve. We may in the future open it up for use by the public.
“We hope those involved will use the app whenever they are travelling to a town involved to give their thoughts on the work that’s going on. They don’t have to make a formal business trip - they could be passing through or on holiday - and this will allow them to upload their thoughts.”
The ATCM began using a paper-based First Impressions Scheme two years ago, generating around 50 reports a year from towns commenting on other areas’ schemes. Blackwell hopes the app will help increase this number to at least 500.