Thetford and Brandon secure �10,000 Portas cash

Brandon and Thetford were celebrating last night after securing �10,000 each to help improve their high streets and boost trade.

Both were named as Portas town team partners by the government and will receive the cash boost as part of a high profile campaign inspired by retail guru Mary Portas.

They will also have access to a support package the Association of Town Centre Management has prepared, which aims to share best practice with the help of retail experts and other town teams from across the country.

In Thetford, the bid was led by the School of Radical Thought in Thetford (Sort It), which is made up of public figures including town councillors and business owners, and was backed by South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss.

Sort It director Corinne Fulford said the money would go towards developing the Sort It website, a town centre loyalty card, offering business support and mentoring and continuing night markets in the town.

In the long-term the group would like to take ownership of the town by selling shares for between �25 and �1,000 and using the money to buy redundant shops and buildings.

“It’s big news for us,” Ms Fulford said. “The money is useful of course, but the package is incredibly helpful as well - there is all sorts of learning you can get hold of.”

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Ms Truss, who submitted the bid to the government, added: “I am delighted to have been able to support this bid and the money will provide a real boost for the future ambitions of Thetford.”

Brandon projects which could benefit from the funding include promoting community transport for retired people who may struggle to get to the shops and brightening up the high street with hanging baskets and new street furniture.

A Brandon is Brilliant Campaign will also be launched to encourage local people to use shops and services on the high street and a scheme to provide make-overs for independent stores will be set up. Forest Heath District Council, which led the bid, said it and other partners would provide further financial and other support.

The announcement follows disappointment earlier this year when the towns missed out being picked as one of 12 to become a Portas Pilot. Some �1m was available to be divided among those dozen towns, chosen from 370 applicants, and which would benefit from the expertise of marketing consultant and television presenter Ms Portas.

The towns were then encouraged to bid for a chance to secure �10,000 from the department of communities and local government.