RESIDENTS and traders are being asked for their ideas for further improvements in Leamington’s Old Town.
Back in July 2012, the area was selected as one of 15 projects – from more than 400 applications across the country – to become a Mary Portas Pilot Town.
Backed by retail guru Mary Portas, the scheme was aimed at breathing life into struggling high streets and saw £100,000 given out as part of the government project.
Over the last three years some of the cash has gone towards improving the overall look of the area.
A shop vacancy rate of more than 20 per cent has also been reduced to just over three per cent – thanks largely to the ‘Heart Up’ initiative, which has encouraged independent retailers to occupy empty units.
And the project is now preparing to enter its second phase with a consortium putting together a new delivery plan, which it is hoped will make the most of the remaining funding.
Project leader Jeremy Ireland said: “We are incredibly grateful to this initiative for giving us the opportunity to manage our own funds, and do what we think works.
“We have seen a huge amount of change in the area and The ‘Leamington Old Town’ name is gaining strength with Facebook pages like Leamington Spa Old Town and The Real Leamington Old Town springing up alongside the main pages.”
The group are now hoping regular public consultation with businesses and residents will help the area develop further.
He added: “Our aim is to promote and accelerate the initiatives begun in the first phase of the Portas Pilots scheme.
“This will evolve the existing initiatives into fully collaborative partnerships – making use of the expertise and enthusiasm that exists among the groups and individuals who have supported the Portas Project so far.
“In phase two, our thinking will be different – we will aim to keep income going into the bank rather than being pressured to see it shrinking.
“Many people have made it clear they would like the project to continue so the team would love to hear people’s opinions on the development of the area as well as businesses with new initiatives for 2016 to 2020.
“We want people to make their own things happen but we would also like to see some derilict land come into temporary community use and for that, we need hands-on community involvement to make the spaces our own.
“We want to be able to make some really ambitious decisions for Old Town and believe this is the mechanism to achieve it.”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/MaryPortasLeamingtonOldTown to suggest ideas.