Midhurst bids for ‘Queen of Shops’ cash revival

Midhurst is making a bid for a £100,000 cash injection to boost the town’s trade under the government ‘Portas Pilot’ scheme.

The pilot scheme was launched by the prime minister and deputy prime minister after commissioning retail guru, TV’s so-called ‘Queen of Shops’, Mary Portas, to conduct an independent review of the high street’s future across the country.

Her review, published in December, set out 28 recommendations to breathe life back into the high street, including the proposal to put ‘town teams’ in place.

The government has set aside £1m and is selecting ten towns to become ‘Portas Pilots’ which will receive up to £100,000 each to help regenerate economic growth.

Vice-chairman of Midhurst Town Council John Quilter told fellow town councillors the bid, which had to be submitted by the end of this month, was being led by the Midhurst Vision Group.

“We are in a good position because we have the nucleus of a town team in place and we have a good track record of achieving what we set out to do through our retail training and the shop front improvement scheme.”

He said it was important to demonstrate support from the community and told town councillors the bid already had the support of West Sussex County Council, Chichester District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority.

The bid is the most ambitious phase of a series of initiatives being undertaken by the Midhurst Vision Group to stimulate trade in the town.

Mr Quilter said the vacancy level of shops in Midhurst was relatively low.

It had gone from 14 per cent in 2009 down to five per cent in February 2011 and stood at eight-and-a-half per cent last month, below the national average.

But there was a ‘very big disparity’ between North Street and West Street where shops were faring less well.