By Ben Simmons

An extra workshop for towns seeking to become Portas Pilots will be held at the offices of the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) in London on the 19 March following the huge demand for places.

This brings the total number of workshops to five, with the Government looking to fund 12 pilots, each receiving a share of £1million.

Half-day workshops have already been held in Solihull, Bristol and Bolton with more than 200 attendees in total. A fourth workshop, being held in London this Friday, was fully booked as soon as it was announced. There are 40 places available for the 19th, which will bring the total to over 300 attendees.

The workshops are being organised by the ATCM on behalf of the Department of Communities and Local Government to provide insights into the background of the Portas Review, the Government's thinking, essential elements of making a good application and tips on public relations and social media as well as ideas for maintaining momentum.

Martin Blackwell, CEO of the ATCM said, "This is a great opportunity not just to make sure that the best possible applications are submitted, but to use the occasion to meet others who are passionate about their High Street and learn from each other."

Grant Shapps said, "In the face of stiff competition from Internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres, it's clear that our high streets need to offer something new if they're to survive.

"That's why I've urgently implemented two of the most important recommendations from Mary Portas's review, to find 12 Portas Pilot areas that can use their enthusiasm, energy and imagination to put into practice their innovative ideas for breathing new life into their town centres.

"I would like to thank the Association of Town Centre Management for agreeing to host these workshops, which I hope will help town teams across the country put pen to paper, and their ideas on film, and show me their ambitions for reinvigorating their areas."

Details of the Department's competition can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/newsroom/2082140, inviting bids from partnerships in England, to become 'Portas pilots' and set up their Town teams. The application process is open until 30 March.


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