Delighted community leaders have spoken of their pride after Amble won a prestigious national prize, but insisted that they will not rest on their laurels and are determined to build on the success.
The Friendliest Port landed the Coastal Community title in the Great British High Streets Awards 2015, fending off competition from category contenders Prestatyn, in Wales, and Bognor Regis, in West Sussex.
Victory not only helps put the Northumberland seaside destination firmly on the map, but as a category winner, the town will now receive a share of a prize pot worth £80,000, alongside expert training and tailor-made tips from Google’s training taskforce.
Victory in the competition also recognises the major transformation in the town’s fortunes, from the despair of losing the former Northumberland Foods factory a few years ago to the boost of opening its impressive Harbour Village, which was officially launched in March.
And Amble Development Trust’s Julia Aston, who submitted Amble’s bid for the Great British High Street Awards, believes this is just the start for the Friendliest Port.
She said: “This is a fantastic achievement and we’re going to use this win as a springboard to do even more.
“It is onwards and upwards from here. We are looking at trying to create a research centre for aquaculture, as well as a lobster hatchery.”
Deputy Mayor Coun Jane Dargue added: “I hope that we can use this as a stepping stone. We are over the moon and it will be a happy Christmas for the town, but we won’t rest on our laurels. We will keep working and keep that community spirit going.”
A public vote, coupled with a judges verdict, were key to Amble’s victory. The crack-team of experts who visited the town in October were impressed by the improvement work which has taken place in the town and the collaboration between local businesses and the new Harbour Village development.
It is testament to the vision and hard work that has gone in to transforming Amble’s fortunes.
Julia added: “All high streets have to adapt to a changing environment – and we’ve been no different.
“That’s why we’re so pleased that the judges and the people of Amble have recognised all that we’ve done to improve our high street and make sure it stays at the heart of our community for years to come.
“Our category was tightly contested and we won by 700 votes, so thank you to every one that voted – we’re thrilled.”
The Great British High Street Awards 2015 were run by the Department for Communities and Local Government and sponsored by Boots, Costa, Post Office, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and the British Council of Shopping Centres.
Now in its second year, it is one of a number of initiatives to help champion high streets as the cornerstones of the community.
These include a £1billion package of investment ranging from targeted business-rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action that reins in over-zealous parking practices.
High Streets Minister Marcus Jones said: “The excitement this competition has generated with a huge level of interest from the public vote is proof that high streets are the life and soul of towns, villages and cities across the country.
“Amble deserves the very highest praise for being a category winner in this year’s Great British High Street Awards. “Their innovative ideas and hard work on the ground really made them stand out and we’ll be sharing their excellent example to help others learn from their success.”
A record number of 230 high streets entered this year’s competition, which was whittled down to three finalists in seven categories. Nearly 200,000 votes were cast. The overall winner, crowned Great British High Street of the Year, was Bishy Road, in York.
City Location: Winner, St Giles Street, Northampton; Runners-up, North Parade, Bradford, and Mill Road, Cambridge. Town Centre: Winner, Rotherham; Runners-up, Altrincham and Tamworth. Market Town: Winner, Helmsley; Runners-up, Chipping Norton and Colne. Coastal Community: Winner, Amble; Runners-up, Bognor Regis and Prestatyn. Local Centre: Winner, Bishy Road, York; Runners-up: Bath Place, Taunton, and Hoole. Village: Winner, West Kilbride; Runners-up, Brigg and Twyford. London: Winner, Pitshanger Lane, Ealing; Runners-up: Raynes Park and Roman Road.