Rugby fail in bid for cash from Portas again

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RUGBY has again missed out on thousands of pounds to improve the town centre - despite nearby Leamington receiving a grant.

Rugby was one of hundreds in the UK to applied to be a ‘Portas pilot’ town, which would have meant extra funding - but despite the toil of Rugby’s shopkeepers, councillors and town centre management company Rugby First, High Street was not chosen to receive the desired £100,000.

One of the 15 that were was Leamington’s Old Town area, a run-down part of the spa town a few minutes’ walk from the town centre.

The scheme is named after retail expert Mary Portas, pictured above, who has helped lead the project.

Aftab Gaffar, operations director of Rugby First, is disappointed but not surprised.

He said: “We gave it our best shot and made a fantastic video as part of the application. While I am disappointed, I am not too surprised because the areas that were awarded pilot status are in a much worse position than Rugby.

“For example, Rugby town centre has a vacant shop rate of 5.5 per cent, which is below the national average of 6.4 per cent.”

He added: “There is a lot of good things about Rugby that Mary would have seen when she visited here – the centre of town is clean thanks to the BID team, we have a great CCTV network, some great independent shops and the town is safe.”

He added that the number of people visiting the town centre is rising and that the opening of two new businesses this summer was a further boost.

Rugby First has been trying to tempt new businesses into town.

Incentives include a £3,000 moving-in grant, £1,000-worth of accounting advice, half-price solicitors’ fees and three months’ free rent on some of the vacant sites.

For more information, visit rugbyfirst.org