May 21 2013 Latest news:
Simon Bull, London24 editor
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Riots-hit Croydon in south London has been chosen as one of the first 12 ‘Portas pilots’ to receive public funding and support from retail guru Mary Portas.
Old Town traders have learned Croydon Council has been successful in securing a £100,000 grant to revitalise the area.
The pilot scheme to improve high streets will form part of a new TV series fronted by Portas.
Croydon’s successful bid – chosen out of 370 applications - involved market traders, shoppers and businesses helping make a short YouTube video that set out their belief in the area and their hopes for the future.
The money will help transform the area’s historic Old town into a thriving market, food and cultural quarter – emphasising its local heritage.
A newly-formed town team, comprising local traders, council officers and Croydon Business Improvement District, will now be able to set up a full-time base in the area.
They will bring in pop-up traders, support improvements to shop fronts, create a member-owned co-operative to provide small loans and establish a new food court in Exchange Square, with seating and a large canopy.
In association with the Princes Trust, the team will be also looking to support a new generation of young entrepreneurs by giving them the help they need to get into business in the historic Surrey Street market for the first time.
Councillor Vidhi Mohan, cabinet member for communities and economic development, said: “This is really fantastic news and a great boost for morale in the Old Town.
“I’m looking forward to seeing new businesses springing up in the market and surrounding streets and it will be amazing to see Exchange Square finally brought to life. This is a hidden gem in the town, and it really is worth a visit for anyone who might not have been down there before.”
Mary Portas 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.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Driving growth and creating jobs through the rejuvenation of London’s high streets is at the heart of my mayoralty and the Portas pilot initiative is a fantastic way to help us achieve this.
“Through our regeneration drive we have already started reversing the decay of our high streets that had been allowed set in through long-term underinvestment.
“So I’m looking forward to receiving some innovative ideas which will help lead the way in steering London out of recession and get these vital economic centres booming again.”