Berwick buzzing as Mary Portas funding announced

A BORDER town has outlined plans for a better future after being named as one of only 15 communities nationwide to receive Government regeneration funding.

The High Street in Berwick
The High Street in Berwick

A BORDER town has outlined plans for a better future after being named as one of only 15 communities nationwide to receive Government regeneration funding.

Berwick in Northumberland beat off competition from 370 towns all over Britain to be named one of the recipients of the Department of Communities and Local Government’s funding administered by retail queen Mary Portas.

England’s most northerly town will receive £100,000 to spend on the regeneration of its high street, having been successful in the second round of the scheme.

It had bid in the first but failed, unlike fellow county coastal town Newbiggin-by-the- Sea which was one of only 12 initial recipients.

The revised line-up featured representatives from Berwick Town Council and town businesses, and was headed up by Ed Swales, the regimental secretary at the community’s Barracks.

Together, they produced a video called Beautiful Berwick, which set out how they would use the money.

The team found out this week that it had been successful, with its money to be administered by Northumberland County Council.

It is to use half the money for physical enhancements to the Marygate markets which run on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The other half will be spent on employing artists to spruce up the high street’s empty shop fronts.

Mr Swales last night said the team had been “absolutely staggered” to have succeeded.

He said: “Berwick’s confidence is low and to get an award like this makes people in Berwick think we can actually do this. There is a real buzz in Berwick, in the market.

“Not that £100,000 is going to solve all the problems in Berwick but it is a really nice catalyst to get a bit of confidence back.”

The news was last night welcomed by the town’s Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith.

He said: “This is great news for Berwick. I have been supporting the Town Team and will continue to help in any way I can.

“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.”

Meanwhile, the Newbiggin Traders Association, which led its successful first bid round bid, is to meet again next month to discuss how its £94,000 funding is used.

A shop loyalty scheme is set to begin operating at the beginning of September although plans for a tourist road train through the town are unlikely to come to fruition until next year.

Portas Pilots have been established to support high street regeneration ideas put forward by communities.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer