Portas, Putney and high street cash

Wandsworth has done rather well at getting money for its town centres of late. Sometimes without even asking for it.

Tooting and Balham both received cash through the Mayor’s poorly named Outer London Fund (more accurately a ‘Not Benefiting from Crossrail Fund’) and Clapham Junction got a payout from the post-riot High Street Fund.

Our current attempt at getting some cash is through Putney’s bid to be one of the Portas Pilots, which would bring in £100,000 if successful. It might be something of a long shot, there will only be twelve pilots (although the government have announced a further twelve) and there have been lots of applications. To make Putney’s job harder all the applications I’ve seen have come from places that are in a much worse state that Putney.

Putney is fairly healthy by most measures (low vacancy rate, good footfall, attracting investment) but still feels the pressures of competition from online and ‘out-of-town’ shopping – Westfield London is not far away – which will only increase as Wandsworth is developed. It also has some difficult to tackle problems unique to Putney, like the fact Putney High Street is such an incredibly busy road and, as a result, the noise and pollution make it a less attractive leisure destination than it could and should be.

There, is however, a lot to commend Putney as a Portas Pilot. Wandsworth is ahead of game when it comes to Mary Portas’ recommendations. For example, we already have what the Portas Review called Town Teams with our Town Centre Partnerships. While I think these can be improved (with an increased membership drawn from businesses, for example), we’d be able to illustrate the longer term potential of what an established Town Team could do.

Whatever happens with the Putney bid, we’ve also just got another £100,000 from the government’s High Street Innovation Fund. Again, attracting cash without even asking. Since is in part aimed at bringing empty shops into use perhaps I should be grateful for the inaccuracies in the Local Data Company’s reports!

We still need to look at the strings and conditions attached to the money, so it’s too soon to say to what use it might be put. (Similarly, there doesn’t seem to be too much detail about the High Street X Fund, which I think is potentially very exciting.) However, it all helps us protect and improve the town centres that form the hearts of Wandsworth’s community.