Updated: Friday, 19th July 2019 @ 2:43pm

Stockport set to bid to become 'Mary Portas pilot town' in new high street scheme

Stockport set to bid to become 'Mary Portas pilot town' in new high street scheme

By Darren Heath

Stockport is to bid for funding to be part of a new scheme set up by high street expert Mary Portas. 

The council will put the town centre under the spotlight in a public meeting at the Market Place’s Covered Market Hall on Tuesday March 6.

The meeting comes following news that over 30% of the towns shops are empty according to the Local Data Company, a fact that makes it ripe for Portas’ initiative.

Councilor Dave Goddard was critical of the announcement by the LDC last month, saying that it wasn’t representative of the economic activity that actually goes on in the town. 

However, he is not ignoring the figures and is behind the push in the town’s bid to become a ‘Portas Pilot’, as announced last week.

Councilor Goddard will be at the meeting and is calling for local businesses, residents and shoppers to attend.

He said: “We want to encourage as many town centre users as possible to come along to next week’s meeting to give us their views and opinions.

 "We will do whatever it takes to make sure our town centre is fit for the future. We want to work with our residents and businesses on a joint approach to make the town centre even better and attract more footfall.

 “We want to hear what people feel are the most achievable, useful, innovative and significant measures which can be made with support from the Portas initiative.”

Successful bidders can get anything up to £100,000 to regenerate their town centres, and part of the bid is the creation of ‘town teams’, who will tackle the problem of how it will be done.

According to Portas, these ‘town teams’ are central to rejuvenating our high streets and town centres, and will help make them great again, not only focusing on economics, but emphasizing their importance as social hubs.

The Portas Review was an independent review into the decline of the high street , and was set up on behalf of the government.

However, it has caused controversy and debate, with the Golley Retail group, a marketing services agency that specialise in working with retail brands, underlining some possible problems.

Issuing an early response to the review that, although favourable to Portas’ recommendations, the group highlighted possible holes in its failure to address changes to so-called ‘Research and Buy’ behavior – a behavioural pattern whereby consumers go online to research other buyers’ opinions.  

Tim Orrel, Managing Director of Golley Retail, said: “The sentiment is right, and it’ll be great if [Stockport] get it. But you can make a better playground for the kids to play on but you can’t guarantee they’ll play there.

“It helps if you can keep business rates low and the car parks are free, but if you’ve got the right product and a good business, that’s all you need.

“It’s down to the local council and the government to support stores, but it’s up to the individuals to do a proper job in marketing to the right people.”

Anyone interested in attending the meeting should phone Stockport Council on 0161 474 4562 or email towndistrictcentres@stockport.gov.uk