Warwick pushes to become 'Portas Pilot' town

By Kevin Unitt 07/03 Updated: 08/03 09:21

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WARWICK is pushing to become a pilot town as part of a million-pound scheme aimed at breathing life into struggling high streets.

A group of business bosses in the town have launched a plan to get it chosen to become one of 12 towns nationally to be a 'Portas Pilot', a scheme backed by retail guru Mary Portas and local government minister Grant Shapps, to share out £1 million in a bid to help turn around 'unloved and unused' high streets.

Hundreds of towns are expected to apply but Warwick's bid has already received high-profile backing in the House of Commons with Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White giving it his “full support”.

And Mary Portas herself encouraged Warwick to submit a proposal - which will be in the form of a promotional YouTube video.

Townspeople and traders, buoyed by her backing and part of a group called 'Warwick Tweetup' on social networking website Twitter, quickly found high levels of interest.

One of the co-ordinators, Graham Todd of town-based Underwood Wines, told the Observer: “The bid has really captured the imagination and the buzz has been truly phenomenal.

“A successful meeting with traders, residents, and members of the Warwick Chamber of Trade has taken place. The application has support from Chris White, Warwick mayor Trudy Offer and the town council, and has brought the community together with renewed enthusiasm for Warwick.

“Successful bidders will need to demonstrate how they have the energy, enthusiasm and vision to make a real difference to the town centre and make it the hub of the community.”

The plan originated when Hatton & Harding, a luxury lifestyle shop in Old Square, came second nationally in the Daily Telegraph Small Shop Awards.

This attracted the attention of Ms Portas, with owners David Hatton and Jerry Harding even receiving a good luck tweet from her just days before the awards event in London.

So impressed was she by the support the business had received in the town she suggested Warwick submit a proposal to become a 'Portas Pilot'.

Visit http://warwicksportaspilots.blogspot.com/ for more information on the Warwick plans.

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