Archive for July 25th, 2012

It’s not often I’ll say this but it looks like Mayor Lutfur has trumped Mayor Boris.

A couple of weeks ago, Lutfur promised a small meeting of residents in Bow (I was among them) that he would look at investment opportunities to improve the area. He promised he would write about it in East End Life and he has kept his word. His latest column is pretty much devoted to Bow, talking firstly about the history and the importance of the Roman Road and then about the impending upgrade of the nearby Malmesbury estate.

I wrote about that meeting here when I also highlighted an application made by another group of residents (the Roman Road Town Team) for Government funding under the Mary Portas pilot scheme, an initiative being driven by Local Government Minister Grant Shapps (quite possibly the Government’s best “blue-sky” thinker) to reinvigorate a selection of run-down British high streets.

Today, Grant Shapps announced the 15 latest winners of that bidding process, with the three London winners picked by Boris Johnson. Roman Road appears on the list…but not in the way many had expected.

The Roman Road Town Team had wanted to appoint a town centre manager who who would try to bring in new cafes, renovate existing shops and even initiate a good quality night-time economy to make it feel more lively.

However, that bid has failed. Instead, Boris picked a rival bid involving those two well-known pioneers of careful spending, the NHS and the Idea Stores. It has secured a pot worth £100,000.

Here’s an extract from the official press release from the Department for Communities and Local Government:

London Borough of Tower Hamlets – Chrisp Street, Watney Market, Roman Road

The Town Team will use the strength of their highly innovative ‘Ideas Stores’  – combining the best of traditional library and information services with activities programmes  – exploiting their high visitor numbers to run a series of programmes including NHS driven healthy food initiatives.

These 15 pilots will now receive:

  • A share of £1.5 million to make their ideas a reality;
  • A dedicated contact point in Government to provide advice and support to encourage greater local business growth;
  • Free support from retail industry giants led by Boots, as well as Mary Portas’s team; and
  • Opportunities to meet and discuss lessons learned and experiences with fellow Portas Pilots

I’ve asked DCLG for the details of this application but on the face of it, it does sound as inspiring as a wet lettuce, which is probably what shoppers on the three market roads will be told to eat by the new NHS shop barons.

If the £100,000 pot is divided between the three markets, that’s about £33,000 each. I’m not quite sure what can be done with that kind of change, apart from printing a few thousand happy clappy leaflets telling people what they already know.

There’s another interesting bit of contorted logic to this. When the Idea Store programme was launched way back in 2003, they were deliberately built next to supermarkets and shopping centres so they could take advantage of high footfalls. It’s curious that the Idea Store programme is now being cited to say its high footfall can drive a shops regeneration. It just goes to show you the bubble they live in.

When I have more details from DCLG, I’ll post them here, but this really is a chance for Lutfur to show he can push something else through with flair and imagination, two characteristics some associate more with Boris.

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