Towns go head to head in bid for High Street funding

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Four towns in the north of the county are to go head-to-head in a bid to win a share of £1m to reinvigorate their high streets.

Business groups and local councils in Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough and Rushden are finalising bids to win a share of Government funding.

Retail guru Mary Portas will choose 12 towns to test out her ideas as set out in her Government-backed plan to revive struggling town centres.

Business groups and councils in our area have been putting together their final bids as they stake a claim to win up to £100,000 to breathe life into their town centres.

Cllr Terry Freer, portfolio holder for planning and growth at Kettering Council, said: “If we won the money, we would use it to find a unique selling point for the town.

“A lot of town centres are mundane, and Kettering is included to some extent, I think the High Street can fulfil a better purpose.

“We could put the money into reinvigorating the market, or putting in a big screen so people can watch sports this summer.

“Any bid will be finalised after we speak to traders in the town centre and hear their ideas.

“It would be nice to have the money to go towards the town centre because times are tough and we want to avoid using our reserves.”

Kettering Council is expected to get the ball rolling for a bid when the matter is discussed at tonight’s executive committee meeting.

Other ideas suggested for any potential funding windfall include expanding the loyalty card scheme and an eco-bus link to Wicksteed Park from the town centre.

In her report brought out last year, Mary Portas constructed a 28-point plan to help revive town centres.

This included the idea of creating town teams to run each High Street like a business, and any application on behalf of a town will have to show there is a plan in place to help revive their shopping centres.

Wellingborough Council is teaming up with town centre organisations and traders to make its town’s bid, and is looking for ideas from local shoppers on how to use the cash.

Cllr Graham Lawman, chairman of the council’s development committee, said: “We have the ambition to make positive changes to our town centre, and we’re really keen to be part of the Portas Pilots scheme.

“We want to make the town centre a real destination, not just somewhere people come to shop but a social place too, somewhere bustling with people and jobs and everything people need and want.”

Corby Council is making a joint bid with Helical Bar, which owns Corby shopping centre.

Leader of Corby Council Cllr Tom Beattie said: “In recent years Corby town centre has attracted people from in and around the borough and this money would help assist in making improvements to the local hub.”

Northampton Council has also entered the race for the cash.

Traders backed their towns’ bid for the cash.

David Aguilar, owner of Bee Inspired, in Market Street, Kettering, said: “The town desperately needs the money.

“Investing it into the market is a good idea, as it will increase footfall in that part of the town.”

Sam Hutchings, owner of Honeykitten in Market Street, Kettering, said: “There’s no central focus with the town centre at the moment so a town team would help drive Kettering forward.”