Rival videos bid for Mary Portas cash

Videos have been created by towns competing to win one of 12 ‘golden tickets’.

TWO North Devon towns have released videos to showcase their assets and grab a share of a �1 million cash pot to transform their high streets.

South Molton and Bideford have both created short films in a bid to become one of 12 towns in the UK named a Portas Pilot.

The competition, organised by Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas, is encouraging towns to win funding to turn around their ‘unloved and unused’ high streets and the first steps involved bidding through amateur short videos.

Bideford’s video, created by members of the town council’s working group, saw Cllr Andy Powell talking to ‘niche’ traders in Butchers Row and around the area.

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Narrated by Mr Powell, the video highlights the lack of customers on the streets, and the lack of qualifications in the area.

In the video he comments: “You’ve seen the shops, and how empty it is; it’s a very deprived town, but there’s a lot of pride here.

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“We have the commitment and we know we can deliver, but what we don’t have is the resource; you have the resource.”

Meanwhile, the South Molton video – produced by a town team headed jointly by Mayor Cllr David Goodman and David Walker, chairman of the South Molton Business Association – outlines a clear action plan to market the town more effectively.

It describes the coming of a new Tesco supermarket in the Central Car Park area as ‘just the wake-up call the town needs if we are to ensure people don’t bypass the town centre to do all their shopping under one roof’.

Among the priorities listed is the need to sell the town more effectively to passing motorists and to guide people to the attractions on offer with clear signposting.

Funding would help brighten up the pedestrian access to the town centre; give tired looking buildings a much-needed lick of paint; and help create a purpose-built space for performances on the embankment, from street dance to classical music.

It would also help the town to develop a full programme of events in the pannier market throughout the year, instigate a ‘culture change’ to get shops to open six-days-a-week and help traders increase footfall by 20 per cent.

The narrator says: “We are proud of South Molton, but even we can see the need for a radical change of mindset to bring it into the 21st century while at the same time retaining links with the past.”

But the South Molton bid appears to have kick-started a campaign to improve the town centre – with or without the Portas cash.

Mr Walker said: “We have fantastic co-operation between the town council, retailers and business people in the town. That goodwill must be taken further in the interests of South Molton.”

He said the bid had been submitted but the team was determined to ensure that more progress was made.

At a meeting last week the team agreed that the next step will be a Big Breakfast event in the Assembly Rooms on Friday, April 27.

In the meantime, full details of the Mary Portas proposals will be put to as many retailers and business people as possible and the team will look for new ideas and for the support that will be necessary when the results of the bid are known.

You can view the South Molton video above, and to view Bideford’s short film click the link in the top right-hand corner of the page.

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