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Liskeard town team says Portas money is being spent

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 27, 2013

Mary Portas in Liskeard pic by Sean Hernon

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THE Liskeard Town Team has spoken out following criticism that the money awarded to Portas pilot towns has not been spent fast enough.

Last week an article in the Independent claimed that only 12 per cent of the £1.1 million awarded to the town teams has actually been spent.

"I understand the huge scrutiny and concern that people have about the pilots spending the money," said Sally Hawken, chairman of the Liskeard Town Team. "But these things take a degree of time."

Liskeard was one of 12 towns across the country awarded £100,000 of government money to help rejuvenate the high street and increase footfall.

"The town team board was first formed in mid-September. We've only been in a position to look at how we can spend the money since then," Ms Hawken said.

"We have seven working groups and all of them have operational plans," she added.

The article stated that by the end of 2012, seven months after the money was awarded, the Liskeard Town Team had spent just over £5, 000.

"By the time the article went to print we had actually committed to spending £73,000 of the money," said Ms Hawken. "At the moment the biggest spends we are looking at are the marketing and bringing in an event organiser and festival co-ordinator. The tenders have already gone out for these," Ms Hawken said. She added that lots of projects are under way and the money was being put to use in Liskeard.

Members of the team have recently distributed leaflets across Cornwall advertising what the town has to offer and the group is designing a new website. Markets and arts events have also been held to help bring people into the town.

"Increasing footfall in the town is one of the main things we are trying to do in Liskeard," Ms Hawken said.

The team had also secured an extra £25,000 from the Arts Council to help support arts events in the town.

As part of the original bid, the town team outlined plans to help fill empty shops in Liskeard.

"We have more shops filled up than we had six months ago," Ms Hawken said. But pairing up landlords and businesses has proved to be a difficult task for the team.

"We have come to realise that landlords and agents are nervous about temporary use.

"We will be meeting with landlords at the end of the month to discuss what can be done," Ms Hawken said.

Last year retail guru and TV personality Mary Portas, who has acted as a mentor to the pilot towns, came to Liskeard to film part of her new TV series about the project.

The town team hope the show, which is expected to be broadcast this spring, will help publicise what has been done in the town.

And encourage more people to visit.

Ms Hawken said: "We're hoping people will see it and think, 'lets have a look at what all the fuss is about in Liskeard'."

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