|Picture Courtesy of www.maryportas.com/portaspilots|
Earlier this year, the town near where I live was chosen to be one of the first 12 Portas Pilot Towns. More than 370 towns put forward a bid for the chance to take part, with the winning 12 towns being given £100,000 of public funding in order to re-vamp and re-vitalise the town in addition to being part of the TV series to accompany the project. What a fantastic idea and just what the town needs considering there are so many vacant shops in the high street, parking charges have gone through the roof and even on a Saturday the town is almost deserted.
I personally think that anything that can be done to encourage growth and community in small rural towns is to be applauded, however, it seems people are divided over the project and certain aspects have angered existing businesses. Part of the initiative, to encourage long-term business commitment, will allow prospective traders to utilise empty business premises rent free for a year. This has not gone down well with the traders who do pay rent and the consensus seems to be that the new businesses will take advantage of the rent-free period and then as soon as they begin to be charged, will up-sticks and leave and the town will be back to square one again. Hopefully this won't be the case and the town will begin to flourish once again.
I have to confess to being totally in the dark about the Portas Pilot Project. If it hadn't been for the lovely lady in Zero to Vintage I would have been totally oblivious. I sort of remember seeing a few dog-eared posters in some of the shop windows but they were rather vague and I honestly had no idea that the project was even happening, much less that the town was involved. I also discovered that a new pannier market is going to be taking place twice a month and that there is a community garden in the town! Who knew? I didn't. You could be forgiven for thinking that I walk around town with my eyes closed, and maybe that's true to a certain extent because usually I nip into town, do what I need to do and then go, but quite honestly how am I supposed to know what is going on if no one tells me? :-)
|The brilliant veg box advertising the community garden that I spotted the other day.|
I only live about 8 miles out of town and I had no idea that any of these things were taking place. I'm all for helping re-generate the town but all the good will, hard work and brilliant initiatives in the world aren't going to help if no one knows about them! How are people supposed to get involved if people don't communicate? If no one gets the information out into surrounding villages and homes? Time to get talking to each other again I think :-)