THREE Huntingdonshire towns have each been given £10,000 as part of the Mary Portas scheme to improve high streets.
Although St Ives, St Neots and Ramsey missed out in the first two rounds of the Portas Pilot Towns project, in which towns could benefit from up to £100,000 of funding, all three have signed a pledge to be Town Team Partner.
The Government scheme has not only given the towns – along with more than 300 others across the country – £10,000 towards their original Portas plans, but will also provide advice, mentoring and visits from retail experts, and the chance to share lessons with other towns.
Peter Baker, St Ives Civic Society chairman, and Michael Purchas, owner of the Golden Lion, set up the Going2StIves bid earlier in the year. They learned about the windfall on Friday after receiving a letter from Housing Minister Mark Prisk. Mr Baker said: “Our bid linked retail with heritage and aimed to attract visitors to the historical sites of St Ives by routing them via the retail outlets.”
He said that the money would be spent on a map highlighting the historical features of St Ives and on material – some of which will be placed in the Cambridge tourist office – to promote the independent shops. New signs will also be erected and a website created to complement the map and the signs.
In St Neots, there are plans use the money on its ‘town centre first’ concept – a series of projects to transform the image of the town centre, including revitalising the markets and supporting young entrepreneurs, new businesses and existing retailers.
Mayor of St Neots Barry Chapman said: “It’s really great news. We were obviously disappointed not to be selected as a Portas Town last summer but understand the reasons for that, as our bid was about expanding the local economy rather than accepting decline.
“This funding will help the enthusiastic St Neots Town Team move forward with plans to improve our town.”
Ramsey will use the money to develop its loyalty card scheme further, setting up a swipe card system for shoppers to use.
The Huntingdonshire towns needed the backing from Jonathan Djanogly MP and Shailesh Vara MP to sign up to be a Town Team Partner.
Huntingdon is already a ‘business improvement district’.
Mr Vara said: “This is excellent news and a tribute to Darren Williams and others who have been involved in the process. The £10,000 will prove very useful.”