Disappointment in Dewsbury as Mary Portas cash bid is turned down

GURU: Mary Portas who led a high street review.
GURU: Mary Portas who led a high street review.

TWELVE towns were celebrating this week after winning government cash to breathe new life into their high streets.

But there was upset in Dewsbury for those who had put so much time into the town’s unsuccessful Portas Pilot bid.

Dewsbury Town Team chairwoman Christine Starmer said: “We’re very disappointed, but hopefully the projects that the winning towns do will help to provide lots of good ideas and we can build on those.”

More than 350 bids were made for the £1.2m fund, which was set up after retail guru Mary Portas’ high street review.

Stockport, Stockton on Tees, Bedford and Margate are among the towns who will now get cash to trial schemes designed to encourage more people to visit. But there was some comfort for those who missed out with news of a second round of grants next month. Ms Starmer said: “We will be seeking feedback on what we can do to improve our chances. There’s something like 358 others who will be going forward and only 15 who will be given any money, but we’re hopeful.”

Dewsbury Regeneration Board also worked on the bid.

Its chairman, Coun Paul Kane said: “I’m not very happy that we’ve missed out, but when you look at some of things in the winning bids, we’re already doing them.”

He said Dewsbury was faring better than many of the winning towns, some of whom had shop vacancy rates of up to 60 per cent.

But Dewsbury MP Simon Reevell said the areas chosen were easy options.

“It’s a pity they haven’t gone for places where it might be a bit difficult but where it would make more of a difference,” he said. “If you come to Dewsbury and make it work here, it’s good for us and is probably something which can work elsewhere.”

Regardless of the outcome, the Town Team plans to push ahead with as many projects as it can.

Ms Starmer said: “Our bid included projects that we’re committed to doing and we’re passionate about.

“We don’t want to tailor the bid just to get the money, we want to put in a bid with things we really have enthusiasm for.”

The team meets next on June 19, Dewsbury Town Hall, 7pm.