Portas pilot project draws to a close

Funds for Portas pilots in Berwick and Newbiggin have now been fully committed and no new applications can be received.

Monday, 11th April 2016, 2:19 pm
Updated Monday, 11th April 2016, 2:24 pm
River Tweed boat trips

Both towns have benefited from the scheme designed to back new ideas to boost trade and rejuvenate some of the UK’s ailing high streets.

In Berwick notable projects include a pop up shop; the conversion of a toilet block into Bankhill Ice-cream outlet; restoration of the Lowry trail and marketing campaign for the Lowry exhibition; the reintroduction of boat trips on the River Tweed; Berwick-in-Bloom planters; new signage at Berwick railway station; promotion of the market and the purchase of new market stalls.

There has also been support to exhibit art works in empty shop fronts; the purchase of decorative shields and flags to support the Berwick 900 live re-enactment programme, and two electronic notice boards for the town.

Most recently, a new pathway through the cobbled quayside is underway to provide better access for elderly users and families with young children.

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Coun Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “I am pleased that the Portas project has had some positive impact in Berwick and Newbiggin. Going forward, Northumberland County Council remains committed to continued investment in all its market towns including Berwick and Newbiggin.

“We are aware there have been issues with the pilot in Berwick, however despite the challenges we have ensured that all the remaining Portas funding is being used appropriately in the town.”

Through the Portas scheme, Berwick was awarded £100,000 and Newbiggin was awarded £94,300. Both received £100,000 match funding from the county council.

Newbiggin were also successful in securing further match funding of £54,000 from a variety of sources.

Some of the projects implemented in Newbiggin include improvements to twenty three properties; tourism marketing and promotions for the town; improved tourism and cycling signage; a transport feasibility study; improvements to Attlee Play Park; Christmas lights, and support of cultural activities such as Christmas fayres and music festivals.

One of the most successful events funded by the project was the Easter Vintage Fair which was held over the three day bank holiday weekend in 2015. The fair included a vintage car rally, dance classes, vintage makeovers, a swing ball, ice cream and seafood festivals, vintage market, live bands, beach activities, and attracted an estimated 8,000 visitors to the town.

Lynn Burns, Chair of the Newbiggin Portas Town Team, said: “The success of Newbiggin’s pilot has been down to hard work and commitment by all involved.

“By focusing on ventures such as tourism marketing and branding, making the high street more visually appealing by improving properties, and investing in fun events such as last year’s Easter Vintage Fair, the area has been given a real boost, and we hope to continue to attract people from across Northumberland and beyond to visit our wonderful seaside town.”