Mayor leads tribute to Berwick’s Portas Pilot team

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THE mayor and MP are leading the tributes to the team who helped scoop a £100,000 windfall for Berwick by being selected as a ‘Portas Pilot’ town.

Although Berwick missed out when the first round of ‘Portas Pilot’ towns were revealed in May, the bid team saw off competition from 418 other entrants from around the country in round two.

“This is excellent news for Berwick and a tribute to the hard work that has been put in over the past few months by a group of very committed people who put together both the first and second bids,” said Mayor John Robertson.

“Berwick’s success in round two is recognition of the town team’s vision for a revitalised town centre which will help to bring pride, and economic benefits, for Berwick.

“We look forward to working with our town team partners to help deliver the plans, and ensuring that this gives real impetus to the town centre’s future well-being and success.”

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith MP said: “This is great news for Berwick. I have been supporting the Town Team and will continue to help in any way I can to make sure this brings real benefits to the town.

“Inclusion in the scheme gives Berwick the chance to put regeneration schemes into action and help our town centre develop to compete with online and out of town retail.

“I am delighted the Town Team has been successful.”

Berwick councillor Georgina Hill Tweeted: “Fantastic news for Berwick! Congratulations to the town team! Sun is shining and birds are singing in ‘Beautiful Berwick’ this morning!”

Tweeddale Press Group managing director Stuart Birkett Tweeted: “Congratulations to everyone involved with Berwick’s #PortasPilot bid. Lots of very hard work paid off.”

The 15 new ‘Portas Pilot’ towns are in addition to the 12 winners from the first round of the competition, who are already making strides to revive their high streets.

“We skimmed down the team after the first bid, because we had to move quickly,” explained Berwick town team leader Ed Swales. “Our second application was a massive improvement on the first and the key to it was bringing in Berwick Town Council as the lead organisation.”

Independent retailers hope the money will be used to help bring more shoppers into town.

“It’s great news for the town,”said Bryon Longbone, owner of carpet retailer H B Longbone & Son,” and all those involved in the bid deserve great credit for their hard work. Business has not exactly been booming, but hopefully this will make a difference.

“The town has been isolated and, at times, forgotten by national and local government, so hopefully this can reverse that trend.”

Spearheaded by television presenter and retail guru Mary Portas, the ‘Portas Pilot’ scheme is a government initiative to regenerate troubled high streets and will form part of a television series.

In addition to the £100,000 prize, Berwick will be given a dedicated contact point in government to provide advice and support to encourage greater local business growth. It will also receive free support from retail industry giants led by Boots, as well as Mary Portas’s team.