Beds, Herts & Bucks

Chesham trader says Portas pilot scheme 'not about money'

A Buckinghamshire trader involved in a town's failed bid to be a Portas pilot says applying was "not about money".

Salon owner, Martin Parkes, belongs to the Better Chesham group, whose plans included making the town a centre for the arts.

He said just taking part in the process had been a positive experience and they would continue with their plans.

"It was about getting a community working together to revitalise the high street," he said.

It was announced on Saturday that Chesham had missed out in its bid for a share of £1.2m of government money to rejuvenate town centre shopping areas.

The 12 winning pilot areas will also get a tailored package of support from retail guru Mary Portas.

Mr Parkes said the group was determined to carry on with its plans and a refined bid will be submitted for the next round which will see 15 additional pilots announced by the end of July.

However, he also said that whatever the outcome, important elements of the scheme can be done without extra funds.

"Any town that thinks it's about the money has missed the point," he said.

"The key thing has been getting the community working with official bodies and breaking down the barriers of officialdom - that has been fantastic."

'Broader brush'

Chesham's bid detailed plans to buy a mobile stage that could be used at different locations, including the town's "not very usable" market square, where a cafe culture could be created.

The group also suggested removing the planters in the square which reduce its capacity, so that it can be used for markets, including a specially-created young peoples' market for the under-24s.

"If anything was wrong [with our bid] is that we painted it with a broader brush than we should have," explained Mr Parkes.

"We need to put more emphasis on the work we are doing with younger people and we need to emphasise what is actually happening."

In Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, eight towns applied to become Portas pilots with only Bedford being successful.

Mr Parkes urged other towns in the same situation not to lose sight of their aims.

"Any town that wants to do this, carry on with what you're doing. Don't lose faith, just do it."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites