With standing room only, a capacity crowd listened eagerly as members of the Core Team told them about the Portas Pilot and what it meant for Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham.
Liz Dart, Head of Community & Neighbourhood Development at Lewisham Council, started the evening off by explaining how the bid process had worked and what not to expect from a Portas Pilot; it was not about investing in infrastructure or the environment, it was about making our high streets lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to the community. One of the fundamental requirements for a Portas Pilot is a “Town Team”: a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for the high streets. This is one way you can be involved.
£80,000 had been awarded for the pilot and this was backed by matched funding from Phase Two works at Bell Green (£100,000) and the High Street Innovation Fund (£15,000). The money will be used to back three projects which aim to re-instill a sense of place and vitality in our high streets.
Ed Holloway, a local architect, then explained the first of the three principle projects outlined in the bid. Jack & Jill are to be two community hubs in Forest Hill and Sydenham. These will be located in currently empty units and renovated by local tradesmen while training some young people (NEETs) to learn a skill. The hubs will be used as a base for the Town Team to interact with the community, showcase local businesses and run business workshops among other uses.
Due to a technical hitch (we had an old presentation up), Louise Brooks, a marketing professional then introduced The Shop Revolution. This project will refurbish up to 12 units for a series of PopUp events with the aim of stimulating demand for empty units. The Shop Revolution will work with Landlords and potential businesses to ensure that we get the right mix of businesses. The Shop Revolution will also work with landlords to find meanwhile uses for premises while looking for long-lasting tenants, maybe under the terms of a meanwhile lease. The ultimate aim is to designate our high streets as a destination – somewhere worth visiting – to bring in visitors from outside the local community
Richard Hibbert, Chair of the Forest Hill Society, then presented Market Makers. This project will enable the running of a market in each centre. There are already two fledgling markets – the Forest Hill Food Fair on the first Sunday of the month and the Girton Road Car Boot sale on the second Sunday – but it was upto the communities to say what sort of market they wanted. This would be determined by people coming forwards with ideas for stalls and markets and through engagement via the Jack and Jill community hubs.
Councillor Chris Best then summarised the evening, encouraging people to get involved. It was only through community involvement that the pilot would be a success. It was up to you to be involved in the Town Team and shape the future of your high street.
Thank you to everyone who showed up at the Launch Event last night. It was great to see such enthusiasm and so many new faces. We look forwards to seeing you again in the near future. If you filled in a questionnaire, then we will be in touch once we have processed them. If you haven’t filled one in yet, then sign up for our newsletter and we will be in touch shortly.
As promised, a copy of the presentation can be downloaded here. Apologies to those at the back of the Pavilion who could not see the slides.