Joy for Nelson as it is named as a 'Portas Pilot' town
NELSON is celebrating after being announced as a ‘Mary Portas Pilot’ town.
The town is one of 12 in the UK to have been selected out of 370 applicants, and will now receive £100,000 in funding, as well the expertise necessary, to transform the high street.
Mary Portas, who found fame with her BBC show ‘Mary Queen of Shops’ was commissioned by the Prime Minister David Cameron to find 12 Portas Pilots – which would receive the support of the government, Whitehall, and Mary herself, as well as a share of £1million.
The newly-formed Nelson Town Team is looking to use the grant to tackle the high number of empty shops and market stalls in the centre and to bring more younger shoppers into the town.
They also want to help students and young entrepreneurs set up temporary businesses in empty properties, offering them a place to test their business ideas out and learn visual merchandising skills, such as how to display student's college art work.
Proposals are also being discussed for a town centre café and it is hoped more sports activities will be able to be offered.
Locally towns including Accrington and Rawtenstall were not successful in their bids.
Councillor Joe Cooney, leader of Pendle Council, said he was thrilled that the town had been chosen and was looking forward to seeing what could be achieved.
He said: “The success of our bid just goes to show what can be achieved when the local community, traders and the council all work together and this is only the beginning.
“Now we are going to be one of the Portas Pilot towns, a Portas Team will come in and the knowledge and expertise they will bring will be worth as much as the £100,000.
“We are really hopeful that Mary will be one of the people that will come and visit the town and give her expertise.
“She is a recognisable face and when she comes to town it will generate interest in Nelson and any advice she can give will be warmly accepted.”
The money will go towards bringing more art into the town centre, with artists being commissioned to work with young people in some of the currently vacant shops.
An art and vintage market is also on the cards and ‘Freshers’ Week’ activities to encourage students to use the town centre are also planned.
Eileen Ansar, chairman of Nelson Town Council, said: “This is the best news that has happened in Nelson for a long time.”
Stephanie Cardwell, of Nelson Town Team and Scotland Road Traders’ Group, said: “It’s going to put the town on the map and I believe it will genuinely bring about much needed change in Nelson.”