A UNIQUE project designed to boost independent traders in Colchester town centre has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

The South Lanes Project, which covers St Isaac’s Walk, Eld Lane and the surrounding streets, has made the final cut in the Rising Star category of the Great British High Street Awards.

The Government-backed scheme recognises communities which are working to revive town centres across Britain and the winner picks up £15,000 to continue its good work.

Since it launched, South Lanes has hosted late-night themed evenings, a “community hack” ideas event and brought independent businesses together under the mantra of “creativity, commerce and community”.

Plans are being drawn up to develop a hyper local crypto currency for shoppers, make a plastic free pledge and tackle empty units in the area.

Business consultant Neil Gibb has been spearheading the project since it began in March.

He said: “We were not expecting to be shortlisted. We are one of ten places in England and the only one in East Anglia.

“It is a prestigious award and it is very much of the moment with everything going on in town centres in Britain.

“You get a lot of publicity as part of the competition and Colchester will be seen in the national newspapers for a positive reason, something which doesn’t happen that often.”


  • Neil Gibb

Judges will visit the nominees and speak to businesses and shoppers.

The public also has the chance to vote for their favourite project.

Mr Gibb said the money would be invested in things like improved signage, lighting and community events if the project was named the winner.

“The thing which has been most surprising for me since we started is a lot of people seem to be sceptical of what we’re trying to do,” he said.

“People have been disappointed by things like this in the past but hopefully we can prove something to them.

“We all need to work together in creating something special.”

The South Lanes Project has moved its themed monthly community events to the first Sunday of every month. There will be in-store performances from musicians, street entertainment and special offers for shoppers.

The Great British High Street Awards are run in partnership with Visa.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “Congratulations to Colchester for being shortlisted for the Rising Star Award for this year’s Great British High Street Awards.

“The South Lanes Project is transforming Colchester’s lanes into a vibrant social and commercial hub on Thursday nights, and there are even plans forming to introduce a ‘hyperlocal’ cryptocurrency.

“People are happier when they can see their hard-earned cash support local businesses. That is why we are celebrating those that go above and beyond to keep their high streets thriving for generations to come.”

To vote click here.