New team set up to deliver Portas vision

Market day in Berwick. Stalls along Marygate

Market day in Berwick. Stalls along Marygate

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A NEW Portas team has been formed to deliver £200,000 worth of improvements to Berwick town centre.

Only one member of the team who secured Portas status for the town last summer remains, following two resignations.

However, a series of exciting projects designed to breathe fresh life into the ailing high street are due to be launched by the new team this spring.

These include a mini-market featuring local producers who will sell their goods at the regular charter market on Marygate.

The problem of Berwick’s empty shops is being tackled by the new team with plans to create a pop-up shop designed to give local businesses a high street platform.

The return of boat trips up the River Tweed to Paxton and perhaps as far as Holy Island and St Abbs, using Berwick quayside as a base, is in the pipeline.

A new art and culture trail around the town centre is also due to be launched at Easter, while a gutter clearance programme to remove unsightly weeds is planned over the next few weeks.

The Portas team are also confident that their call for the return of short-stay parking on Marygate will pay dividends.

The working group currently examining the issue is in favour of the move and is expected to table a range of options as to how it could work at its next meeting in early March. A recommendation would then be taken back to Northumberland County Council.

Town team director Ed Swales said: “Parking is the biggest single issue we need to overcome to counter the threat of out-of-town retail parks and online shopping.

“If you can get people into the town centre then at least you have a chance. That’s why we’d like to see short-stay parking return, perhaps on a two-year trial.”

He added that Boots is the latest retailer to back the return of limited parking and will be asking other national chains to support its stance.

Berwick became a Portas Pilot town as part of a government scheme spearheaded by retail expert Mary Portas to regenerate high streets across the country.

The Portas team are working alongside several partners to help deliver their goals, including Berwick Town Council, Mouth of the Tweed and Cittaslow.

Mr Swales is the sole remaining member of the team which secured the £100,000 prize, a figure subsequently matched by the county council. He has been joined by Chris Hardie and Michael Richardson as directors with Peter Ayre helping in an advisory role. Keith Siseman and Andrew Marshall have both resigned.

Mr Swales said: “We’ve taken a while to get up and running but we’re right on track to start delivering some real improvements. Keith and Andrew did a great job in helping Berwick win the bid but we’ve now got a new team who are specifically in place for their project delivery credentials.”

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