WISBECH’S Town Team posted what they hope will be a winning bid today (Friday) for funding as a Portas pilot project.
The team had just eight weeks to get their bid together and co-ordinator Jaqui Fairfax is confident it is strong enough to be selected as one of the projects being spearheaded in the wake of a High Street review by retail champion, Mary Portas.
The Portas bid is a challenge for towns to come up with projects to help fight high street decline and win a slice of the £1 million up for grabs under the initiative.
Jaqui believes Wisbech’s project - which is full of innovative ideas - fits the bill.
But Jaqui explained the Portas bid is just the start for Wisbech’s regeneration hopes because the team will be continuing whatever the Portas outcome.
“The Portas bid is the catalyst for us,” said Jaqui, explaining other funding opportunities and schemes are being pursued.
The bid includes ideas which had been kept underwraps until after the deadline. These include using an empty retail unit as a training centre for apprentices who would work alongside trainers but also sell items such as crafts and a ‘shop and drop’ idea to create a base where people can arrange deliveries to be sent with a fitting room for trying items on and a collection point for returns.
The bid also focuses on the Market Place, also using an empty building to attract micro-businesses and having a town centre manager.
Jaqui, who is the managing director of award-winning March business CUB (Uk) Ltd and chairman of the Fenland Chamber of Commerce, was amazed with the support that has come forward for the Town Team
since it was launched in the Citizen in February.
The team has 71 members from all walks of life who are committed to Wisbech.
“Our bid was started from scratch. Other towns have run their bids through their councils,” she said, adding: “The town should be very proud of its team.”
Fenland MP Steve Barclay praised the team’s efforts saying it is a “strong, community-led bid which reflects a great deal of effort”.
Mr Barclay said a successful bid would bring a “welcome impetus and an exciting new chapter for the town”.
The team has to wait until May to find out if the bid has been selected. In view of the massive response from towns countrywide to the initiative, the Government announced on Friday there will be a further round of Portas pilots.
Jaqui, who is one of the Fenland Citizen’s Local Business Accelerator mentors, will remain in her role but ultimately plans to hand over the co-ordinator reins to Hannah Campagna but will still be involved with the team.