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Retail guru Mary Portas brings new Town Team to save Primrose Hill

PUBLISHED: 12:48 04 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:27 10 July 2014

Mary Portas was speaking at St Mary's Primrose Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock

Mary Portas was speaking at St Mary's Primrose Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

Retail guru Mary Portas has revealed she will be heading up a new crack team of Primrose Hill residents, business owners and landlords in a bid to rejuvenate the area’s high street and rescue key businesses from property developers.

The self-styled “Queen of Shops” believes her new Town Team – an initiative already repeated in town centres across the country – could make “something magical” happen to the area, and has urged the community to get behind the plan as well as an array of other schemes.

The new group of about eight representatives would work on a number of areas, improving Primrose Hill for residents, visitors and businesses.

It comes as a campaign grows to save The Albert pub from being turned into flats, a long battle continues to stop businesses in the Utopia Village complex being turfed out in favour of homes and footfall for shops still struggles.

Speaking to an audience at St Mary’s Primrose Hill on Wednesday last week, the 54-year-old invited anyone “except moaners” to apply.

She said: “One of the key recommendations I put in my report to the government was the formation of Town Teams – the mix of all the stakeholders who can come together and lobby for changes in their town.

“And I’m a little bit embarrassed we don’t have one in Primrose Hill.

“I think we can make something extraordinarily magical happen here.”

She added: “We have a sort of lovely community here in Primrose Hill in a rather privileged way. But I genuinely think we want to be more social and community minded.”

The formation of Town Teams was one of 28 recommendations Ms Portas made in an independent report to government to “put the heart back into our high streets”.

Hampstead is currently the only other place in Camden with its own Town Team, founded last year by Glenda Jackson, MP.

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who spearheads the Hampstead Shops Campaign Town Team, said she “strongly encouraged” other areas to set up their own groups.

“Something high streets don’t have is organisation, which is what Town Teams can bring,” she said.

“We’ve been doing a number of different things here in Hampstead. We have our own tech-guru trying to bring technology into our high street shops, and it also allows us to look at planning applications for the creation of businesses that we may already have in abundance, such as charity shops and estate agents.”

As Primrose Hill plays catch-up, it has a number of other initiatives in the pipeline also aimed at boosting the area.

The first issue of a new free, 12-page monthly publication called On the Hill will be printed in 
October, informing residents and visitors of upcoming events and community issues.

A Primrose Hill loyalty card could also see the light of day, and plans to create a Business Improvement District in the area, such as Camden Town Unlimited, have also begun.

Phil Cowan, a resident who has been leading many of the initiatives, said: “Over the years the high street here has improved a little. A few years ago there were almost 10 shops lying empty – now there are only a couple. But more needs to be done and we’re still missing basic shops like a butcher, although one could be on the way.

“The whole purpose is to help generate footfall and keep the high street vibrant.”

If you would like to get involved in the new Town Team, email philcowan2014@gmail.com or tweet @p_hillvintage.

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