Work to revitalise Wantage has received a national seal of approval after the town won a Great British High Street Award.
Wantage has won the Town Centre Category in the awards which recognise innovative town centres where projects bring more people and business to the area.
The contest was run by the Future High Streets Forum which received more than 135 entries from across the UK. More than a third of town teams – local groups set up to support their high street – entered.
With the number of vacant shops in Wantage increasing, in 2013 Vale of White Horse District Council appointed two town team coordinators, Mim Norvell and Iain Nicholson, to work with businesses, landlords, agents and councils, and oversee a series of revitalisation schemes to help bring the town centre back to life.
Just 18 months later and projects such as The Mix community space, pop-up shops run as the Flashop project, the ‘We’d love you to join us’ independent retailer campaign culminating in a town prospectus, free town centre wi-fi, projects that engaged young people in the town centre, including public art displays, and work to strengthen the markets and attract new traders, and provide regular street performances on market days via ‘Wantage Presents….’’ have helped the town’s vitality. The number of empty and available shops has dropped from 26 to just four units, and interest from businesses looking to come to the town is now at record levels.
Last month award judges visited Wantage to look round the town prior to deciding the winners. In picking Wantage as the category winner they said they were ‘particularly impressed with the strength of local partnership working resulting in the complete transformation of the town centre’.
Cllr Elaine Ware, Cabinet Member for Economy, Leisure and Property at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “We’re delighted that Wantage has won this Great British High Street Award. The recognition really highlights the work that everyone has put into revitalising the town centre and helping to attract in more people and businesses. We recognise there is still lots to do and will continue to work hard as a town team to build on the progress so far.”
The Great British High Streets Awards are run by the Department for Community and Local Government’s Future High Streets Forum to look for new ways to boost high streets and ideas that can be shared with others that can help high streets evolve. Applications are assessed on innovation, collaboration and outcomes.