COLCHESTER’S independent shopping streets are set for a makeover ahead of judging for a national competition.

The South Lanes Project, which covers St Isaac’s Walk, Eld Lane, Trinity Street and Scheregate Steps, is in the final ten of the Rising Star category of the Great British High Street Awards.

In preparation for the judges, who will visit on Thursday, September 12, empty shops will be filled with art, sculptures and flowers will be added to the street and maps will be handed out.

Shoppers are being encouraged to visit the South Lanes from 1pm to 3pm.

Simon Wright, a consultant and one of the organisers, said: “We are working with the Business Improvement District to get access to the vacant buildings and we are in talks with artists to put their work in them.

“We want to create a buzz in the South Lane and that will help the whole of the town centre.

“If people come to town they want something over and above what they can get cheaper on ebay or Amazon. The shops in the South Lanes give you an experience.”

Unlike other towns and cities who had the backing of councils for their applications, the South Lanes Project was done entirely by businesses in the area in just two weeks.

Mr Wright said: “We had an extremely small budget but we have 16 to 20 core businesses involved and another 40 to 50 in the periphery.

“We can’t wait for the next council meeting, there is a real urgency to do things, not to wait for things to come in six months.”

Shop owners and residents have been calling for the town to make more of its independent shopping streets for years.

The South Lanes Project is not just about trying to win £15,000 in the competition.

Mr Wright said: “We want to put the South Lanes on the map and it is already working, people are talking about the South Lanes as a place.”

The South Lanes Project is supported by the Colchester Community Group on Facebook.