Hedge End’s Finance & Administration Committee have agreed to proceed with the Town’s bid to become a Portas Pilot.
The Portas Pilot competition was launched in February by the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, the Minister for Housing and Local Government and Mary Portas. The competition aims to choose 12 towns to become Portas Pilots, with the successful bidders sharing £1 million to help turn around their struggling High Streets.
At the February meeting of the Finance & Administration Committee, the Town Clerk was asked to work-up a proposal that could be considered by the Committee in their March meeting. All bids have to be submitted by 30th March, so time is very short.
The proposal that was put to the Finance & Administration Committee this evening was to issue all Hedge End residents with a plastic card bearing a barcode. The card will serve two purposes.
The card would entitle residents to free travel on a Land Train that will run around the residential areas of the Town and take its passengers to and from Hedge End Village Centre.
The Land Train could also run past the local shops in Tanhouse Lane and Shamblehurst Lane, it would certainly stop at the recreation ground and paddling pool, but would deliberately not call at the Hedge End Retail Park, the large out of town shopping centre. Although important to the Town, the Retail Park has had a negative impact on trade in the traditional Village Centre and one of the key points of the Portas scheme is to help revive the traditional shopping areas.
Once in the Village Centre, the idea is that residents would also be able to use the same plastic card to obtain a discount on their shopping, or on exclusive special offers, at the local traders who are participating in the scheme. The intention is that if the barcode has been swiped on boarding the Land Train, it will attract a higher rate of discount in the local shops than if the residents had travelled to the Village Centre under their own steam…
The Land Train service would fill a gap in public transport provision that bus companies are not currently satisfying and the extra discount for using the Land Train would encourage less car use.
This evenings decision by the Finance & Administration Committee was merely to approve the ideas that underpin the proposal. More work has to be done before the bid can be formally submitted and the fine details, such as the exact route of the Land Train, still have to be worked out.
But now that they have been given the signal to proceed, the Town Council staff will be out and about in Hedge End over the next few days talking to local traders and getting them on-board. There are also plans to create a video to accompany the bid, which will be uploaded onto YouTube.
Whether Hedge End will one-day see a Land Train trundling around its streets is entirely dependent on Hedge End’s bid being one of the successful ones. The Town Council could not afford to do this without the funding from the Portas Pilot competition.
Public interest and support for the scheme can only help the Town Council’s bid. Your thoughts on the scheme can be posted in the form of a comment on this article, or sent directly to [email protected]