Local MP endorses Bishop’s Waltham’s application for Mary Portas Pilot

Press Release: 21/05/2012

MP George Hollingbery behind the counter of Peters Fish Shop in Bishop's Waltham and was taken by Nigel Auckland of Marwell Zoological Society

Local shoppers and Bishop’s Waltham Festival goers were not mistaken when they thought they saw George Hollingbery (Member of Parliament for Meon Valley) behind the counter of Atkinson’s Fishmongers in Bishop’s Waltham. The MP was showing his support for the town’s application to become a Mary Portas Pilot by finding out at the sharp end what is at the heart and ‘sole’ of this medieval market town!

Last year the Government commissioned ‘Mary Queen of Shops’ to produce a report on the state of the UK’s high streets. The ‘Portas Review’ gave rise to a set of recommendations to improve the vibrancy and resilience of our town centres. One recommendation was to identify a number of towns prepared to put into place ‘Town Teams’ – as suggested by Mary Portas – to deliver an agreed action plan to support and develop their high streets. The government then decided to offer £100k each to 12 ‘Portas Pilots’ across the country to help fund these action plans.

Hundreds of towns across the breadth of the UK are clamouring to become ‘Portas Pilots’. Some might ask why the active and self-reliant community of Bishop’s Waltham, with its high occupancy rates for its retail premises, would need to benefit from becoming a Portas Pilot? After consulting the community it was felt that the town centre, with the changes that the new Sainsbury’s store will bring from 2013, would make a perfect case study for the government, and its story could then be shared across the country as a model of best practice.

The newly formed Bishop’s Waltham Town Team’s mission is to ‘sustain and future-proof the existing High Street, whilst developing new markets, uses and businesses for it’. It is made up of representatives from Bishop’s Waltham Parish Council, Bishop’s Waltham Society, Bishop’s Waltham Chamber of Trade, Bishop’s Waltham in Bloom and Winchester City Council. The Town Team’s application to become a Portas Pilot received letters of support from 16 local organisations as well as its MP George Hollingbery.

In support of the application MP George Hollingbery said:

Bishop’s Waltham is an historic market town and I wholly support plans for enhancement which can be made to retain its character and unique charm.”

Tony Kippenberger, Chairman of the Bishop’s Waltham Society and the new Town Team, added:

The Town Team was formed quickly but has already received strong local support, and we want to extend the public consultation that has already been started. We believe there is much that can be done to build resilience and sustainability into our High Street and commercial centre to secure its future as a vibrant market town. The Bishop’s Waltham Society offered its immediate support for the town team in order to protect and enhance the future of our much-loved town. And whether or not we receive a government grant, I am confident that the Town Team can do a great deal of good for Bishop’s Waltham.”

Lindsay Edge, Clerk of Bishop’s Waltham Parish Council, said:

Bishop’s Waltham Parish Council strongly supports the bid to become a Mary Portas Town Team and many of the ambitions indentified within the bid meet with the vision of the council’s Forward Plan published in May 2011.”

Those that live and work in Bishop’s Waltham are waiting with bated breath for the announcement, due at the end of May 2012, to see if their application as been one of the 12 successful bids. There is an opportunity to be put forward for round two if their bid is not successful this time round. Wish them luck!