A SEARCH to find six UK ‘high streets’ in decline to transform into bustling marketplaces has now begun.
The AGORA project led by the Retail Enterprise Network (REN), based at Manchester Metropolitan University, and the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) is calling on retailers, councils, local media and residents to make a positive difference to their town by applying for the programme today.
The £2.7m project, part funded by the European Social Fund’s Equal programme, will improve the social, environmental and economic ‘health’ of selected retail districts and communities in England.
The initiative aims to protect and revitalise town centres by strengthening community involvement in town centre management.
Cathy Parker, AGORA project director and principal lecturer in retail marketing at MMU, said: “There has been a considerable decline of traditional town centres, which has had a direct impact on the local community.
“Unless we can find a framework for inclusive community involvement in the management of these areas then we will continue to see decline.
“We are asking people with a stake in the revitalisation of their town centre to come forward with candidacies. That may be the local newspaper, the local retail association, the local authority or anyone who believes in their town’s future as a shopping centre.”
AGORA is inviting successful applicants to a development day which will enable them to voice their opinion on the current issues that their local area faces and translate these into achievable objectives for the future. Pilot towns will be selected based on specific criteria and at the end of the development day, six pilot areas will be chosen to take part in the 18-month project.
Training and development will be a key element in the scheme, enabling individuals and groups involved to develop the necessary skills to have a lasting impact upon their areas. A town tool kit, containing products and services from the Retail Academy Ltd, an organisation developed through the REN, will aim to provide local businesses with learning materials specifically designed to improve their trade and service level to the community.
If you want to make a difference to your town, then apply for AGORA. Applications are available online at www.agora.uk.net or from Eve Davies, Retail Enterprise Network Communications Co-ordinator, at Manchester Metropolitan University, on 0161 247 6059.
The deadline for towns wanting to apply for the AGORA project is October 28, 2005.
For more information, please contact Eve Davies, Communications Co-ordinator, Retail Enterprise Network at Manchester Metropolitan University on 0161 2476059. Or for more information, please visit: www.retail-network.org
Notes: The Retail Enterprise Network (REN) is a research and academic enterprise unit at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School. REN is partnered by over 50 organisations including retail groups, trade associations, policy makers, local councils and town centre management schemes. It is currently responsible for the administering the All Party Small Shops Group inquiry into the future of the ‘high street’.
The Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) is dedicated to helping town and city centres realise their natural roles both as prosperous locations for business and investment, and as focal points for vibrant, inclusive communities.
The Retail Academy Ltd ( www.retailacademy.org ) emerged initially from the partnership created by REN and is now dedicated to promoting and encouraging business development in the retail sector.