Market Rasen Portas Pilot – What’s Happened & What’s Going to Happen Next

Our Open Letter to our MR BIG business members, and already read and commented on by Grant Shapps MP:

Dear MR BIG business colleague,

It’s been a busy few weeks since our Extraordinary Pop Up Market, not least of all because of the news that we won our place as one of the first 12 Portas Pilot Towns to receive money for High Street Regeneration.

It’s taken a little while for us to understand from the Government, what winning these monies means in practice – as it will certainly be a high profile affair, under the scrutiny of the national media.

Now that we have a bit more information, here’s an update of what’s been happening, along with meetings and actions planned as we look ahead.

The Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Grant Shapps has been in touch, as have members of his Portas Pilot team. They have advised us of the following:

o We will have specific experts to help us action the plan that secured our winning place.

o Our monies will be available soon and will be paid to West Lindsey District Council (who is our accountable body). We will draw the cash down from there. (Note: our winnings are ring-fenced for MR BIG, they cannot be spent or allocated by WLDC).

The meeting when we decided to go for Portas!

o People from the government are coming to visit us on the 18th of June and we will be told the exact rules about how we spend our Portas Pilot cash – but we believe we will have to closely adhere to the plan we put forward in our bid.

The people from Mary Portas’ TV production company have already paid us a visit. They have advised us of the following:

o They love Market Rasen and think we’ve got a fantastic story to tell. BUT it’s unlikely that we will be one of the main featured Towns in the TV series that is going to be made. (It’s important that we are all clear that the TV series is a bolt-on to the official Portas Pilot, which is a government initiative).

o The reason that we are unlikely to be one of the main Towns on TV, is simply because the amount of road noise through Market Rasen makes filming difficult.

o We are still likely to be visited by Mary Portas at some point and will have the opportunity to share our ideas with Mary.

The core group that led the Portas Pilot bid has been busy, getting important structure and process in place. These were promises we made in the bid, in order to qualify for the funds. Now we have been confirmed as a winner, we have had to fulfill these promises.


o In order to receive and administer the funds we have won, we have to create a formal ‘Community Interest Company.’ This is a ‘not for profit’ organization that will work for the benefit of Market Rasen. It will continue to be called Market Rasen Business Improvement Group.

The big ideas on the table that formed our bid

o This allows us to have a bank account and ensures that an official structure is in place to make sure that these funds are used responsibly, transparently and in a way that is accountable to members.

o Every business member of MR BIG today (and in the future), is invited to become a member of the Community Interest Company (CIC). Membership costs £2 and buys each member a single share in the company (and a right to vote on important issues at public meetings).

o The CIC must elect a Company Board. These are unpaid, volunteer roles, but have a defined purpose and responsibilities. We are proposing a Board of 10-12 members, ideally to include some of the people who have driven the bid so far, plus some others to ensure a good representation of member businesses and sectors.

o The Directors of the Company will continue to follow the vision developed by our members in the Open Meetings we held earlier this year. In short, Market Rasen Business Improvement Group exists to 1) Improve the look and feel of our town centre 2) Take steps to increase customer footfall in town, for the benefit of Market Rasen businesses. (Please note the Town Transformation Plan and Action Plan document we developed together are available on this blog, just click those links, and in our town library as hard copies).

o We are proposing to hold two Open Meetings in close succession. The first at 7.00pm on Monday the 18th June at Holy Rood Schoolroom, will be a briefing session to cover the points in this email and hold a Q&A session so that all members are up to speed. The second will be 7.00pm on Tuesday 26th June, same venue and this will be a session where members elect their Board. (We will send more information on the process for this in the next couple of days and hold an informal briefing session.)

MR BIG also met with the Town Council last week, to put forward a proposal to run 10 BIG markets over the course of the year ahead. The meeting was positive and we expect to hear the definitive outcome in the next day or two. We hope that these events will build on the success of the Extraordinary Pop Up Market and draw in shoppers locally and regionally, to boost footfall for traders in our town.

40 business people, 40 ideas, one winning bid

We have also been working with West Lindsey District Council to see if we can secure additional funding to support some of the plans in our bid. Initial meetings have been extremely positive and we should know the outcome in the next few weeks.
Hopefully, you’ll all have seen some of the positive publicity our Portas Pilot Win has created. We’ve been the focus of national, regional and local media interest, all reporting positive stories about our town. A handful of our members with media experience have been fielding these enquiries and have been directing visiting media out and along the High Street to talk to traders about their experiences. Our status as a Portas Pilot winner means that the media will continue to take an interest in our progress over the months ahead with positive stories that help to put Market Rasen on the map for all the right reasons.
Please remember our winning bid was the outcome of the ideas and concerns of 40+ BIG members, progressed by around 15 handraisers who matched our thinking to specific recommendations within the Portas recommendations to government. The ideas we proposed were strong enough to secure our place as winners – it’s important that we show strength and focus in implementing those ideas. So now’s the time to get involved and take an active role in making things happen.

To that end, if you fancy taking a Board Role on the CIC and want to find out more about what’s involved, we’ll be holding an informal briefing session on the evening of the Monday 11th June. At present, CIC board membership is only open to members from the Market Rasen business community. If you are a Market Rasen business yet to register with us, please do so online here: Business Registration Form

Please can you let us know if you intend to come by using our online contact form. The meeting will be held at 7pm Holy Rood Schoolroom.

Kind regards


Journalists wishing to talk to a member of Market Rasen’s town team are requested to call:

Sara Scott 07912 644968
Sarah Lamballe 07974 194888

Our Portas Pilot Journey so Far:

Filming our Portas Pilot Video

Our Portas Pilot video on YouTube

The fine detail of the bid – our Town Transformation Plans – published online

Mary Portas Tweets praise for our Portas Pilot video

Our Extraordinary Pop up Market on May 14th, proving what can be done in four weeks with no funding, but plenty of great ideas and heaps of hard work. Also commended by Mary Portas on Twitter:

Our WIN announcement, made at midnight on May 25th 2012:

Our Celebration Party:

The back story of the Market Rasen Business Improvement Group (MR BIG) started January 2012


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