We’d have done better with Portas £100,000

Mary Portas during her visit to Nelson, one town selected to be a 'pilot' town
Mary Portas during her visit to Nelson, one town selected to be a 'pilot' town
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Towns in Lancashire which missed out on £100,000 as part of the Portas Pilot scheme to boost flagging high streets, have criticised “wastage” of grants in the 12 successful areas.

Malcolm Allen, chairman of Chorley’s Traders Alliance, which backed the town’s failed bid said: “We could have done better”, after hearing that Dartford spent £1,600 on Peppa Pig costumes and Wolverhampton Council spent £989 on postage.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that of the total £1.2m handed out across the county to winning bids, only £100,000 has been spent so far.

Nelson, the only Lancashire town to be included in the Government-backed scheme, has only spent £11,477 of its £100,000 prompting comments that progress to improve the high street is too slow.

Mr Allen, who runs a music shop in Chapel Street, added: “They haven’t spent a great deal because some of the ideas they had weren’t good enough.

“It’s disappointing news that the money is being spent on gimmicky things like Peppa Pig costumes, because it should be being spent on schemes that will have a long-term benefit to the town.

“If we’d have got the money, we wouldn’t have wasted it. Our priority would have been increasing footfall in the town centre and encouraging more individual businesses.

“I would have liked to have seen some of the money being spent on improving the access to Chorley town centre, to go along with all the work Chorley Council have done improving the market and giving grants to business owners.”

Leyland central Councillor Derek Forrest, who runs a solicitor’s practice in Hough Lane, said he was also disappointed Leyland missed out.

He said: “I’m sure that our town team would have spent the money more wisely.

“I was very impressed with the plans I heard Preston has to make Fishergate more pedestrian-friendly, and ultimately I’d like Leyland town centre to do the same.

“I think we also need more on-street parking and for Hough Lane to look more like St Annes, where people can walk around freely.

“Hough Lane has been revamped in parts, but a lot of it is looking very tired and desperately needs money. The pavements are very bad.”

Preston also made a bid to become a Portas Pilot town.

Council chiefs said they had been working on a number of initiatives as part of the bid, and were disappointed to miss out.

The Portas Pilot scheme, was given £2.4m by the Government, and is being headed up by retail expert Mary Portas, who has changed the fortune of several major brands.

In total, 371 individual bids were received, and whittled down to a final 12 by Local Government Minister Grant Shapps.