New team will build on failed Portas bid

A NEW town team is set to be established in Morpeth to bring together key local stakeholders.

The proposal will be put to Morpeth Town Council to build on work completed as part of a failed bid to secure almost £100,000 for regeneration projects.

Morpeth was one of 371 applicants in the first round of the Government’s Portas Pilot scheme, which seeks to revitalise town centres with funding support for improvement initiatives.

And an Economic Forum, including Morpeth Town Council, Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, the Greater Morpeth Development Trust and local businesses, was set up to put together the bid.

But the town was not selected in the first group of 12 pilots, and last week the partners learnt that it had also missed out on the second group of 15.

However, forum members are keen to continue the work they have started.

Coun Ken Brown, who represented the town council on the forum, said: “Unfortunately for Morpeth, as expected, it was not selected, but given the publicity that the funding is for 15 failing towns I’m pleased that we haven’t got anything.

“The Economic Forum has discussed formalising the town team arrangements that underpinned the bid and I will come back to the town council to establish representation and initiate a formal town team.

“It will have a largely strategic remit, but also a town steering group.”

As well as the original forum partners, the team is expected to include national and local retailers and youth groups.

Ideas included in the Morpeth proposal were for a town centre loyalty card, weekend park and ride scheme, development of the More In Morpeth brand, a mobile phone app and market events.

It is hoped that at least some of the suggestions can be progressed and work is already under way through the chamber of trade to introduce the loyalty card.

The town council will send letters of congratulations to Newbiggin By The Sea and Berwick, which were selected as Portas Pilots in the first and second rounds respectively.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt said: “With only 27 bids approved throughout the whole country, for Northumberland to get two of them says two things. One, that we have got some good people to put bids together, but secondly, it emphasises how Northumberland’s economy overall is in relation to keeping things going.”