THE TOWN’S Portas Pilot Bid has failed but Eastbourne Borough Council has promised to stump up the £100,000 cash prize instead.
Despite the disappointment that they were not selected for the government scheme, Eastbourne’s Town Team, which put the bid forward, will be able to carry out their town revitalisation schemes after all.
A number of volunteers from the business community in Eastbourne, including independent and national retailers, the Chamber of Commerce and local shopping centres, submitted a bid to be one of 12 pilot towns to share a £1.2m fund and advice from retail guru Mary Portas.
The winning towns to receive advice from Mary Portas and a share of her £1.2 million fund are Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Bedminster in Bristol, Liskeard in Cornwall, Margate, Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, Nelson in Lancashire, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea in Northumberland, Stockport in Greater Manchester, Stockton-on-Tees in North Yorkshire and Wolverhampton.
However, because of the overwhelming response of more than 370 applications from across the country, a second round of the competition has been launched – giving Eastbourne another chance.
Grant Shapps, local government minister, said unsuccessful applicants should not despair because 15 additional pilots will be announced by the end of July.
In the meantime, Eastbourne Borough Council has stepped in with its own cash after councillors said they were won over by the commitment and energy of the Town Team and the value of the schemes it was proposing.
As a result, the council has earmarked a £100,000 investment fund to help make the regeneration schemes a reality.
The money, approved by cabinet at a meeting on Wednesday (May 30), will enable the Town Team to deliver some of the projects outlined in its Portas Pilot bid.
The team has welcomed news of the fund as the latest positive boost for Eastbourne’s economy following Legal and General’s announcement that it is pressing ahead with the proposed Arndale Centre extension.
Town Team spokesperson Lucy Newport said, “There is no doubt that the feel-good factor in Eastbourne is rising with many new fantastic opportunities for the town’s economy.
“With the news that Legal and General will be going forward with the regeneration of the Arndale Centre, the town centre being awarded £100,000 from the local council, the Olympic torch passing through, the Eastbourne Carnival parade, shops and restaurants in the town decorating their windows for the Jubilee weekend and the weather, we can all truly celebrate being the Sunshine Coast.”
The Town Team will now submit a detailed business plan on how the council fund should be spent – with the local authority adamant that concrete, well thought out plans would have to be looked at before any purse strings were loosened.
And Cllr David Elkin said he has some misgiving over the way the cash would be allocated.
Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, the Tory said, “Anything which brings the sparkle back to Eastbourne is always welcome, but I have some serious concerns about the governance of this.
“If we had got the Portas money people would have seen it as bonus money and the governance could have been more flexible, but with public money that governance needs to be tighter.”
He added that he felt there should be in-depth consultation before any funds were allocated.