Family friendly plans form bid for Mary Portas cashBy Lucy Allen
March 27, 2012
A creche for shoppers and more early evening activities are among the ideas being put forward to revitalise Wokingham and Woodley town centres.
Encouraging new businesses to use the markets and using more technology to promote the towns could also be put forward as suggestions to win £100,000 of Mary Portas funding.
The ideas were among many floated at a meeting on Thursday night to discuss how Wokingham could become one of 12 Portas Pilot towns.
The successful pilot towns, launched by retail expert Mary Portas, will each receive £100,000 to turn its ideas into reality.
The three main ideas being floated by Wokingham Borough Council, which has to submit its bid by March 30, were:
- A family-friendly town, maybe with a creche
- Better use of the markets
- Encouraging people into town outside normal hours.
Andrew Nicholls, economic development officer at the council, said: “Three main themes have come out of our discussions.
“We are asking what we can do to make them [the towns] more attractive and appealing for families.
“Can we be more innovative in using our markets, for example using them to help people who have a new product to get it off the ground?
“Also, we want to strengthen the link between the daytime economy and the night-time economy.”
He continued: “In Wokingham, we have excellent restaurants, but we have that gap between when the shops close and the night-time economy starts.
“What can we do to encourage people to go into town then? Can we encourage them to stagger their working hours?
“It is more than just longer opening hours, we have got to generate footfall, we need a draw to get people to come out.
“If the bid is successful and we get the money we can use that money to get people to come in.”
John Piasecki, of Hudson Bay clothes shop in Denmark Street, said he was keen on the idea of making the town family-friendly.
He said: “Wokingham will never compete with Reading in terms of scale and range of shops.
“It has to have a different feel and ambience, and that should be based on young families.
“I would like to see Denmark Street pedestrianised on a Saturday too. What better way to make it family-friendly than to have no traffic so the kids can run around to their hearts’ content?”
The council is keen to hear other ideas it could put forward to the Portas bid.
A questionnaire seeking views on what could be included is now available at some town centre shops, Wokingham Town Hall, Wokingham Borough Council’s offices at Shute End and The Oakwood Centre in Woodley.