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Names Of Portas Pilot Towns Are Unveiled

The east Lancashire town of Nelson may have a higher proportion of boarded up shops than almost anywhere else in the country. 

But the mood among its shopkeepers is much more upbeat this weekend, after the town was chosen as one of the first 12 so-called Portas Pilots.

Nelson will receive £100,000 of government money, as well as support from the retail guru Mary Portas to attract more visitors, especially young people, to the town centre.

"This is fantastic news for Nelson," said Nick Emery, who has seen footfall gradually decline in 27 years as a shopkeeper in the town.

"It's not just the cash, but also the level of publicity and expertise that Nelson will now get."

The successful towns range from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea in Northumberland to Liskeard in Cornwall.

More than 370 councils applied, and Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said he was overwhelmed by the quality of the applications.

"The best local high streets offer more than simply shopping," he said. "They are the beating hearts of their neighbourhoods.

"It's why this competition to become a Portas Pilot has captured the imagination of the nation."

But Claire Richmond, a mother-of-two who gave up her job to head a campaign to improve her local town centre at Crouch End, said local communities do not need government money to attract more visitors.

"We have made a success of regenerating Crouch End and we have done it for next to nothing," she told the Evening Standard.

"I can show any high street how to do the same and it wouldn't cost them a penny."

The first 12 chosen areas also include Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Margate, Bedminster, Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees and Wolverhampton.

Other towns who want to benefit from the Portas scheme have until the end of June to apply for inclusion in the second batch of pilots , to be announced later in the summer.