St Leonards bids for ‘Mary Portas makeover’ cash

London Road, St Leonards
London Road, St Leonards

CENTRAL St Leonards is in the running for a £100,000 makeover as part of a regeneration scheme inspired by retail guru Mary Portas.

A team led by housing agency Local Space hopes the bid will be chosen from around 400 applications to be one of 12 ‘Portas Pilot’ town centres to receive a share of £1 million of Government money.

The final proposals were put forward at a community meeting at the Magnet centre, in St Leonards on Wednesday evening. They include giving the main high streets of Central St Leonards a face-lift, establishment of an enterprise space for small businesses, and efforts to bring in new visitors with improved transport such as a system of cycle rickshaws along the seafront.

Other parts of the bid focus on community cohesion, with ideas including a regular open-air market, improvements in the provision of evening entertainment, provision of spaces for young people, and the establishing of a mobile community garden by the Wonky Women’s Institute, along with a community cafe. As part of the application process the team are submitting a film by local film-maker Glynis Jacques, which showcases the potential of the area, but also the need for regeneration.

The Portas Pilot scheme has been born out of the Portas Review into the future of town centres published in December 2011 and conducted by retail expert Mary Portas.

Local Space and Hastings Borough Council have been working closely with local businesses over the past month to put together the bid, discussing local aspirations and improvements that could be made should the bid be successful.

Local Space chief executive Bob Young said: “The high street is the heart of St Leonards and this Portas Pilot bid aims to restore its heart beat.”

Hastings Borough Council has pledged to match the £100,000, with a further £60,000 in funding in an effort to show commitment to regeneration.

Councillor Jeremy Birch, leader of the council, said: “It is not just the money, but the publicity and status. Those 12 town centres would get a national profile.

“We have got a partnership on the ground, which other places might find difficult to match.

“Even if we don’t unlock this pot of money, hopefully we have unlocked some of the potential of St Leonards businesses.”

The bid will link with the Coastal Space regeneration work in St Leonards, including the £3.5 million social housing investment plan in which Local Space is the lead partner.

The team will find out in May whether or not the Portas Pilot bid has been successful.