Bidding to boost town’s economy

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A GROUP of Morpeth organisations is taking forward its plans to boost the town’s economy after deciding not to make a renewed Portas Pilot bid.

Last month, 12 towns were chosen to share £1million of Government funding under an initiative spearheaded by shopping guru Mary Portas to breathe life into failing high streets across the country.

Morpeth was one of more than 370 applicants but was unsuccessful with its bid.

The Government has announced that 15 towns will be chosen to receive support from the initiative and any already put forward for the first round of funding automatically go forward for re-consideration.

But after scrutinising and analysing the outcome of the first round, the Morpeth town team that drew up the initial bid has decided that the chances of a renewed application being successful are slim.

Representatives from Morpeth Town Council, the local Chamber of Trade, Greater Morpeth Development Trust, local businesses, schools and community stakeholders worked together on the bid.

Coun Ken Brown said: “We sent off what we considered a strong bid, but looking at the towns that were successful it is clear that they are all more challenged than Morpeth in terms of their current high street offers.

“Indeed it is fair to say that some of them would actually aspire to be the sort of town Morpeth already is, so we have to be realistic about the chances of Morpeth being included in another round of funding and move forward by immediately putting into place the ideas we outlined in our initial bid for the future of our town.

“What the original bid did was to galvanise everyone involved to work in partnership to deliver ambitious but achievable goals for making Morpeth even more attractive as a shopping and visitor destination. We need to build on the momentum that was kick-started by the Portas bid and we intend to do that by formalising the setting up of a Town Team to manage and steer through that process, supported by a second group that will concentrate directly on the marketing and promotion of what the town has to offer not just from a shopping point of view but as a visitor destination.

“We need to involve as many local people, traders, business people and organisations as possible in that process and in that regard we would be delighted to hear from anyone who thinks they have a contribution to make. One of the first steps I personally intend to take is to ask the town council to support a research and data gathering benchmarking exercise to give us the sort of detailed information we need to determine just how we cement Morpeth’s position as the region’s leading modern market town that has so much to offer residents and visitors alike.”