INNOVATIVE plans to shake up the nation’s High Streets could be trialled in Chesterfield when a bid is placed for the town to become a ‘Portas Pilot’.
Following an independent review published in December by retail guru Mary Portas, the Government has invited localities to bid to become one of 12 pilots, which will each receive up to £100,000 to develop their town’s economy.
Destination Chesterfield, in partnership with Chesterfield Borough Council, is one of more than 300 partnerships expected to bid before Friday’s deadline, for what local government minister, Grant Shapps has called a “golden ticket” for High Streets.
A spokesman for Destination Chesterfield said the town is already carrying out many of the recommendations laid out in Portas’ Government-commissioned review, with a thriving market, frozen parking rates for 2012, and the introduction of Chesterfield ambassadors - frontline workers who are kept up-to-date with the latest news and events in the town so they can share this information with visitors.
But he said the application focused on the future of the town, and building on this success to ensure it continues.
George Cowcher, Chief Executive of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “I don’t think Chesterfield falls into the same bracket as some of the so-called “ghost towns” up and down the country which Mary Portas identified in her recent retail review.
“It already has a thriving town centre and market; and a broad retail proposition which offers something for everyone, which would make it an ideal candidate to become a Portas Town Team, because it already has a strong base upon which to build.
“It could also be used to showcase best practice, as an example of how a traditional town centre can be revitalised with investment, development and a clear retail strategy to make it attractive to shoppers, tourists and other visitors.”
John Burrows, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: ““It is so exciting for us to be placing a bid to be a Portas Pilot.
“I believe Chesterfield is one of the best placed towns in the country to try out the Portas review. It will give us the opportunity to spend a lot of money to re-jig the market place, the centre of town and create activities that will feed into the review.”
He added: “The Portas Report highlighted the importance of markets for towns. Chesterfield Market is at the heart of our bid alongside our independent and high street traders.”
A central focus of the recommendations is the introduction of Town Teams, who will take a hands-on approach to improving the High Street and pushing development forward.
If successful a Town Team will be pulled together from the Chesterfield Champions – businesses who work together to promote the town – and other town centre businesses.
Peter Swallow, Chair of Destination Chesterfield said “This bid will allow us to use the public and private sector expertise from the Chesterfield Champions to ensure our town centre remains vibrant and adapts to compliment the future developments in the town.”
Vic Risorto, owner of Calabria on Glumangate and a Chesterfield Champion, is keen to get involved should the town be selected for the pilot.
He said: “The idea is to work to grow the Chesterfield economy, by creating jobs and supporting the businesses that are already here.
“We need to support new businesses opening. When something opens, it is a great opportunity for the town. We have 17 employees here at Calabria and that is not to be scoffed at. Clearly, new business gives opportunity for people who want to make a career change. It benefits everybody.”
The deadline for applications is Friday, March 30. Successful towns will be revealed in May.
l What do you think of Chesterfield’s town centre? How could it improve? Email email@example.com
As part of the bid, local film company, Peak Features, are shooting and editing a three-minute video entitled ‘Actions speak louder than words’.
It will feature residents and businesses supporting the application in the style of a black and white silent movie. Market Manager, Andy Bond, Chesterfield College’s principal, Trevor Clay and the Derbyshire Times’ very own acting editor, Phil Bramley, are amongst those captured on the film, which can be seen at http://youtu.be/fsG9ghd6bxo