Braintree in bid for share of �1million pot led by retail guru Mary Portas

BRAINTREE has joined the race for a slice of a �1million pot aimed at breathing fresh life into high streets

The pilot scheme - which is being led by retail guru Mary Portas - will see a dozen towns benefit from her advice and up to �100,000.

Braintree District Council (BDC), as part of its bid, has put together a video aimed at making the town’s case.

The bid has been backed by Braintree Chamber of Trade and Commerce despite its concerns the process had not involved the town’s traders.

Peter Searle, secretary of the chamber, said: “It has been a shame the traders have not been involved in making a bid for this money.

“We’re positive for it but any application for funds needs to tick all the boxes and if it doesn’t it will not succeed.”

Mr Searle added there were a lot of empty shops in Braintree and that the town’s outlet shopping village, Freeport, had had an impact.

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“The economy is depressed. we have a lot of shops in the town which are vacant,” he said. “I hope the Mary Portas bid comes off and the money is used for meaningful projects in the town.”

In its video the council said the money would be used to fund support packages for businesses, improve links between firms and fill empty shops with budding entrepreneurs.

Councillor John McKee, deputy cabinet member for enterprise at BDC, said: “We’re delighted that the Portas Pilot bid is focusing attention on our struggling high streets. We are already tackling some of the issues through our ‘Backing our Towns’ initiative such as cheaper parking and Loving Your High Street Awards.

“Now we want to use this potential funding to step up a gear and revitalise our high streets.”

The Government asked Ms Portas to investigate the state of English High Streets and her review was published in December. It made a number of recommendations for local authorities and businesses to help revive shopping areas in the face of declining footfall.

To be in with a chance of becoming a Portas Pilot Town applicants must show they can fulfil these recommendations, which include setting up a Town Team made up of members of the community.

Successful bids are set to be announced in May.