Monday, November 30, 2015

News: National recognition for Rotherham town centre


Rotherham has been successful in the best town centre category in the Great British High Streets Awards, a Government-backed competition to find and celebrate the nation's best high streets.

The competition is run by the Future High Street Forum, which brings together leaders across retail, property and business to advise the Government on the challenges facing high streets and helps to develop practical policies to enable town centres to adapt and change. It was established to help accelerate the programme of local mentoring established in response to the Portas review.

The forum created the awards to "recognise the real strides that some high streets are making, and the incredible diversity and services they provide to their local community."

21 finalists across the competition's seven categories had the chance to impress an expert judging panel and battle it out in the public vote to be crowned Britain's best.

Rotherham was named in the "Town Centre" category alongside Altrincham and Tamworth. Public votes contributed to 50% of the selection of the category winners, with the other 50% coming via the judging panel, made up of industry leaders from across retail, property and business.

Rotherham was visited by Judge Alana Renner, deputy communications director at The Post Office, on November 5.

Bernadette Rushton, retail investment manager at Rotherham Council, said: "Despite what the name suggests, the competition isn't about saying we have the best High Street in the country or that we don't still have challenges to face, it's about recognising the work that has gone into regenerating the town.

"There has been a huge investment in the town centre from a number of partners, not least the retailers and building owners themselves and we hope to be able to show the judges just what fantastic businesses, old and new, we have here and just how far the town and High Street have come in recent years."

Organisers said that: "due to its incredible support for start-up businesses and local retailers, Rotherham has been recognised as a very worthy winner."

As a Portas pilot, Rotherham has used a package of funding to provide business and financial support to independent retailers and the use of pop-up shops and the Makers Emporium.

Charlotte Scothern, owner of Patchwork Pig, said: "It was such a boost for all the businesses that are trading here to see us shortlisted from 230 applications! The High Street and wider town has changed dramatically in recent years; the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) has undoubtedly transformed some of our most impressive buildings. Many of my customers can’t believe the changes when they visit."

The impressive heritage-led regeneration of listed buildings on the High Street has seen 13 key properties have been renovated thanks to a total of a £4.7m investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Rotherham Council and the property owners. Some of the most prominent are part of the complex of mixed-used retail outlets focusing on listed buildings like The Three Cranes building and former Georgian Town House at 29-29a High Street created by local businessman, Chris Hamby.

Cllr. Denise Lelliott, Advisory Cabinet Member for Housing and the Local Economy at Rotherham Council, said: "We are delighted that the efforts to regenerate the town have been recognised in this national competition - having seen the other entries this is a huge honour. A number of partners have come together to make a real difference to the town centre and their hard work and belief in the High Street is paying off.

"A combination of restoring the town's historic core, creating high quality public spaces and supporting independent retailers to help differentiate our offer has been a winning formula.

"The response from shoppers and residents has been fantastic, our success in this competition is thanks to their support and the fact that so many people voted for the town is a huge boost to everyone working and running a business in the town centre."

Rotherham's win means a share of a prize pot worth £80,000, alongside expert training and tailor-made tips from Google’s training taskforce – the Digital Garage on Tour – for 100 of their shops, bars and restaurants.

Rotherham town centre website

Images: Tom Austen


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