This is the first in a series of updates from me on Stockport’s Portas Pilot bid. I’ve also published this on the unofficial Stockport Portas Pilot website.
“But isn’t £100,000 just a drop in the ocean?”
I’ve heard it more than a few times since Stockport became one of the twelve towns to be selected as a Portas Pilot. And it’s true. Millions of pounds is being invested in key projects around the town – in comparison £100,000 hardly registers. So why am I so excited about Stockport becoming a Portas Pilot town?
It’s about achieving something which the bigger-spending projects – important as they are – can never manage in the short term: creating a buzz around Stockport, getting many more people to see it as somewhere they want to visit, want to spend time and money in, want to set up a business in, want to base their community project in.
Our Portas Pilot bid focussed on Stockport’s historic Market and Underbanks area, but we have to use the momentum it generates to build success more widely – to make an impact across the whole town centre.
We’ve won the bid, so what’s next?
First up, we’ve got some great events over the next few months. We’re celebrating National Market Day on June 23rd in style, with the food and craft markets, Vintage Village and Teenage Market all coming together. We’re encouraging new traders to give the market a try with reduced rents and promoting the “Stockport Market Pound” discount scheme to tempt more shoppers in to hunt out that bargain.
On Sunday June 24th we’re looking forward to the Olympic Torch coming through Stockport, and we’ve put on a wealth of entertainment and made town centre parking free for the day.
Stockport Business Challenge gives businesses offering services right across the borough the chance to take home a share of £300,000 the Council’s put forward. On June 26th, any Stockport business can come to the Town Hall, listen to the presentations from the 14 shortlisted bidders and vote to decide which ideas will win the money. Every business will have a vote and the sole traders get exactly the same vote as the big businesses.
July 29th will see the Seven Miles Out music and arts festival come to Stockport Market.
Manchester Metropolitan University are setting up an art graduate business incubator right in the Marketplace, in buildings owned by Stockport Council. We’re working with Stockport College to do something similar, and to find a more permanent home for the Teenage Market.
These are all fantastic projects that, together, can create that critical mass to make Stockport Market Place a real destination for artists and shoppers alike.
That’s the start – it’s happening on the ground right now. But we need to be building and planning for the future too, and that’s where the Town Team comes in.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be assembling the new Stockport Town Team. We already have the rapidly growing Town Centre Business & Retail Forum, as the existing ‘town team’ who submitted our bid to become a Portas Pilot. Our new Town Team is another big step forward: it’s going to have real decision-making powers and real money. We want the Town Team to be responsible not just for the Portas Pilot money and the matched funding from the Council, but to shape other decisions about other town centre spending, such as the Council’s events budget.
Our Town Team will be large enough to bring together the people we need: representatives of large businesses, small traders and young people, for example; but not so large as to be unwieldy. The Council will be represented on the Team and – importantly for a voluntary organisation spending hundreds of thousands of pounds – will support it with Council staff. We will also have a much wider Town Centre Forum which will bring together anyone and everyone who wants to be involved in the town centre.
Stockport’s Portas Pilot bid is harnessing the energy, talents and enthusiasm of our people to create something special, and to make Stockport the destination of choice for traders, shoppers, creatives and anyone who wants to have a great time. If you would like to make a difference in Stockport, why not join us?
Councillor Iain Roberts leads for Stockport Council on the Portas Pilot