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Portas cash for Brighton's London Road ‘going to waste’
4:40pm Thursday 15th November 2012 in News
Traders are concerned cash from shopping guru Mary Portas to revitalise a fading high street could be wasted.
London Road’s business community is urging Brighton and Hove City Council to strike while “the iron is hot” and get momentum rolling on the major rejuvenation project for the busy thoroughfare.
Concerns have been raised of little progress on the Government-funded Portas Pilot scheme for London Road since funding was announced in July.
The area was one of 15 across the country chosen to be part of a project fronted by TV presenter Mary Portas.
Council officials say discussions have been held with other towns and Government officials to learn lessons from other schemes and that the first of the proposals could be in place from the start of next year. But Trevor Freeman, chairman of Brighton’s Federation of Small Businesses, said he was concerned the funding could actually harm the London Road area unless the council listened to businesses.
He said he was keen to make sure the money would be used to make sustainable and permanent improvements to the area and not just fade away like previous projects to redevelop the area.
Urgency Mr Freeman said: “We have got to strike while the iron is hot and make sure that this money will really make a difference.
“Every time there has been money made available in the past, we haven’t made it sustainable and the money has just faded away.
“The business community worry that if this is not handled correctly it could do more damage in the long term. I’m sure something will happen soon but the feeling is this is not being treated with the urgency it warrants.”
Among the proposals included in the Portas Pilot bid are plans to introduce a security radio linking shops to tackle shoplifting and antisocial behaviour, pop-up art galleries to fill empty shops and shop space for young people to trial their business ideas.
A council spokeswoman said work was under way to generate additional funding to support the activities and a meeting is scheduled for later this month.
Shopper surveys will take place before Christmas to learn more about shopping trends and a series of public open days are also to take place. The council received £83,485 from the Government late last month to allow them to start work on the project.
“We have been working with a number of the round one Portas Pilots to find what has gone |right or wrong with their structures following a number of high-profile issues being reported,” said the council spokeswoman.
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