Mary Portas says council need to 'rip up rule book' to help high street during visit to Market Rasen
MARY Queen Of Shops praised Market Rasen when she visited yesterday but said the council needs to "rip up the rule book" and remove red tape to help the high street turn itself around.
Retail guru Mary Portas visited shops and restaurants in the town to check on progress after it received £98,000 of Government cash to invest in improving the high street as part of the Portas Pilot Scheme.
Not-for-profit Market Rasen Business Interest Group (Mr Big) is in charge of the purse strings and has already spent more than £10,000 of the cash since receiving the grant last year, and two new shops have been opened as a result.
Mary charmed shoppers and praised the "unique" high street, which she said was in the top three she has visited out of 27 in the project.
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However, she also said that West Lindsey District Council (WLDC) could do more to help Mr Big turn the town's fortunes around.
"The people here are working really hard to improve things but, from what I'm hearing, the council just needs to up it a notch and make things easier for them," said Mary.
"It needs to rip up the rule book and remove the red tape from the days when it held all the funds and responsibility, just as the high street has had to adapt over the years."
Grant Lockett, WLDC's head of service strategic growth, has promised it will rise to the challenge.
He said: "West Lindsey was fortunate enough to be one of the 27 Portas Pilots and we have supported the group from the start, even helping with the successful bid.
"It was great to meet Mary Portas who described the local scheme as 'innovative' and we are excited by the opportunities this offers.
"We will continue to work closely with the group and explore the different ways in which we can help and will be taking up Mary and her team's offer of assistance."
Mary, and a number of residents, said that the group's top priority should be filling the Square Bar, an empty premises owned by Co-op, in a prominent location.
John Matthew, one of the Mr Big directors, said: "I think filling premises is everyone's top priority, although a year ago, there were 24 empty fronts and two weeks ago, we counted only six.
"I'm not saying that this project is directly responsible for this all, but it shows progress is being made.
"The key now is to concentrate on sustainability so we can maintain this improvement – this was never intended to be a one-year scheme."
Mary didn't buy anything during yesterday's visit, but was given a hamper from Green's Of Lincolnshire – one of the new stores opened as part of the scheme, replacing a green-grocers which closed and was missed by the town.
"I'm going to eat it all and of course I would love to return to the town when I have the time to look around and shop," she added.