Make way for Queen Mary!

Undated Handout Photo of Mary Portas. See PA Feature TV Portas. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/John Wright. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TV Portas.
Undated Handout Photo of Mary Portas. See PA Feature TV Portas. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/John Wright. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TV Portas.

QUEEN of shops Mary Portas could soon be paying a ‘royal’ visit to Garstang – advising traders on how to boost the town centre’s image.

The idea has the backing of Wyre Council, which is hoping Garstang will be picked for a makeover as one of several ‘Portas Pilot’ schemes from around the country.

The respected retail guru’s advice on shops and shopping centres has found favour with the government, which has set up a £10m fund to back her ideas to revive the nation’s high streets.

The cash will be made available to communities which put in a serious bids to get a slice of Mary’s no-nonsense advice.

Wyre Council has already put in a bid, which will cover the main towns in the borough, and is hoping for a successful outcome.

Helping with the Wyre bid have been Angela Kershaw, who worked with the Garstang Partnership, and Garstang Chamber of Trade leader Damian Carr of Carr’s Jewellers.

Mr Carr said: “We need to understand that people now use shopping as a leisure activity, and we need to make our town centres as attractive and welcoming as we possibly can.

He said among specific ideas suggested for Garstang were better signage from the A6 to the town centre, the possibility of altering some pavements, and the bringing back of a 50% grant towards the cost of shop front improvements as an incentive to traders to boost their image.

He said: “If we win the bid it will be fantastic, but even if we don’t, the fact that the various towns of Wyre have got together to talk about and swap ideas which have worked in, say Poulton and Cleveleys, and which could be applied to Garstang, is a very postive move for the future.

“It is independent businesses that keep the community going.”

Mr Carr pointed out a successful bid could build on the work of the former Garstang Partnership, a local “quango” set up to boost greater Garstang’s fortunes after the foot and mouth epidemic of the early 2001.

That body helped to bring millions of pounds of funding to the district, though the Portas cash would be focussed specifically on town centres.

Wyre Council leader Peter Gibson said the fact that Wyre’s bid was for several town centres could make the borough’s bid more attractive to the panel which chooses the successful bidders.

He said all of Wyre’s towns were struggling in some way, but the Wyred-Up business network organisation, set up and supported by Wyre Council to support local traders, was successful.

He added: “We’ve got a group of people together, and wheher the bid is successful or not, we aim to keep them together to support each other and share best practice.”

Garstang will have tough competition from other towns around the country, including local bidders Kirkham and Leyland.

Mary Portas’ recently issued “Portas Review” for the government outlined what she thought had led to the decline of traditional high streets, and made 28 recommendations about what could be done “to breathe life back into them.”