Newbiggin selected as one of only 12 Mary Portas pilot towns – Video

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NEWBIGGIN by the Sea has won a fiercely competitive opportunity to breathe life back into the town.

The Newbiggin Traders’ Association submitted the application to become a Mary Portas Pilot Town earlier this year.

Newbiggin town centre.

Newbiggin town centre.

And now it has been selected as one of only 12 in the country to receive a share of £1.2m in funding.

The application, written by the association’s secretary Crystal Hinds and chair Norma Thompson was drawn up from suggestions of residents.

It was praised for its innovative ideas for improving transport within the town and taking back ownership of empty or under used spaces.

Ms Hinds, manager of the Newbiggin Maritime Centre, said: “It will allow us to put Newbiggin by the Sea on the map and invest in projects which will open town up to the region and nationally.

“For too long the town has been a ‘hidden’ gem.

“To be a thriving town in the future the traders’ association understand that we need to creatively tackle the problems we face. The Mary Portas funding will help us start to do this.”

Local trader Ms Thompson added: “We are absolutely thrilled with the news.

“We are really looking forward to getting people into and around the town through our innovative ideas for transport.”

The application received support from multiple organisations including Berncia, Blyth Valley Arts and Leisure and Newbiggin Town Council.

As part of the project the team are looking for local people to join their town team.

Local government minister Grant Shapps praised the exceptional quality of the winning bids, which will each receive a slice of £1.2m and a tailored package of support from both the minister and retail guru Mary Portas.

The competition to become a pilot received an overwhelming response, with more than 370 applications from across the country.

But Mr Shapps said unsuccessful applicants should not despair – the quality of the bids has been so high that a second round of the competition will see 15 additional pilots announced by the end of July.

The Minister said it was clear that Mary Portas’s review into the High Street was the “catalyst communities craved” to get together and secure the future of their town centres.

“The best local high streets offer more than simply shopping – they are the beating heart of their neighbourhoods: places to meet, work, relax and come together as a community,” he said.

“It’s why this competition to become a Portas Pilot has captured the imagination of the nation, with communities across the country uniting to support their high streets.

“The quality and sheer number of applications has been overwhelming – 12 winning bids now have the chance receive expert advice and financial support, but I believe more towns deserve to be selected.”

Mary Portas, who will make a TV programme on the successful applicants, said: “I’ve been deeply touched by both the quality and creativity of the bids and the momentum Britain’s first town teams have generated in just a few short weeks.

“It is now clearer to me than ever that Britain wants its town centres revitalised and the energy and accountability for that needs to rest with the people who live and do business there.

“My sincere congratulations to everyone who entered”