RBTE 2014: Wyre Council hits jackpot to connect local towns

Wyre Council has won first prize in a UK-wide competition that encouraged towns and cities around the country to think innovatively in the name of regeneration.

The local authority picked up a package of business and marketing support worth £191,000, which will be directed towards boosting the prospects of four of its town centres. As the sole winner of the Revive and Thrive Challenge, the council will now get to spend six months working with retail and marketing experts, making use of a range of technology-led tools and training schemes.

More than 100 towns and cities entered the competition last summer, with seven of them shortlisted for the top prize earlier this year. The winner was announced at RBTE on Wednesday, in front of a packed audience at the Dell Champagne Bar at London's Earls Court.

Fleetwood, Cleveleys, Poulton and Garstang are the towns set to benefit from the prize, with the judges rewarding Wyre Council's desire to link-up these individual towns for the greater good of the wider community, with the aim of helping these towns better thrive off the success of nearby tourist hotspot Blackpool.

The expertise now accessible to Wyre includes street and window dressing, merchandising and customer profiling. There are also physical prizes such as smartphone apps, publications, digital window screens and even a machine for removing chewing gum from pavements.

Councillor Gordon McCann, economy portfolio holder at Wyre Council, commented: "In many ways this prize package is more valuable than cold hard cash. It allows us to learn alongside experts to create action plans that are proven to work.

"We'll be able to introduce new ideas that have previously eluded us and build further on the work that our Wyred Up network and Get ReWyred support schemes have already done bringing businesses closer together to future proof our local economy."

Wyre was the only one of seven finalists to submit a multi-town entry, and the support it will now receive will aid the authority with its ambition of connecting coastal and market towns, and developing individual town teams that can work together in improving the image and overall offering of the local community.

Mark Barnes, founder of the Revive and Thrive Challenge, told Essential Retail that all of the shortlisted finalists had positive ideas for boosting their local communities, but Wyre's philosophy of connecting multiple towns made it stand out from the crowd.

"During the judges' deliberation, it is true to say that all seven were in a position to win at one stage – all seven finalists were excellent," he explained.

"Wyre Council got the fact that four towns can do so much more if they work together."

Following what has proved to be a successful inaugural Revive and Thrive Challenge, Barnes and his team now have plans to run a second annual competition, and potentially a smaller format challenge, to help generate ideas that can boost local communities and high streets.

Essential Retail will focus on the winning entry and highlight Wyre's plans for change in its local community in a special feature later this spring.