Newport scoops Rising Star award for High Street

Newport High Street.
Newport High Street.

The appearance of closed shutters has become a common sight on high streets across the UK, and Fife.

Retail giants and banks are closing branches, as customers look online for best value, leaving businesses, politicians and local residents to debate the future of the high street.

But not every high street in the UK has been affected – in fact, some have, and continue to, flourish.

One such example is Newport-on-Tay, which was this week awarded the Rising Star High Street gong at the 2018 Great British High Street Awards.

As well as a £5000 prize, the award also recognised the strong community spirit, which has seen the high street prosper at a time when many are struggling to adapt to changing conditions.

It praised the strong partnership with community groups and the success of the village’s two big festivals.

The village hosts two annual events – the popular Newport Festival and a Christmas Cheer, which will be held on November 29. These events involve the whole village, with stalls, activities and food vendors spread across the streets, and residents and local organisations getting involved.

Newport’s Higb Street is also unique in that there are no empty units.

It was for these reasons that Newport-on-Tay came ahead of high streets across Britain to claim the award.

The village was nominated for the award by Betty Martin, the voluntary chair of the Rio Community Centre, which runs a thrift shop in the town, and Becky Myles of the village’s traders’ association.

“It has been a silent giant waiting to explode and I think this is us on our way,” said Ms Martin.

“All the shops are full and we have a diverse range of shops.

“Having independent stores makes a difference – you can come and get your feet and hair done, buy your groceries.”

Newport-on-Tay boasts a mix of chain shops, such as Co-op and SPAR, as well as independent stores, including a florist, sewing shop, chiropractor, butchers and much more.

“We have a beautiful high street,” added Ms Martin. “You’ve got the river and it is a nice town.”

She also praised the community spirit, adding: “It’s the people in the area who keep the shops open.”

Ms Myles is a relative newcomer to the village, having arrived in 2012.

She said: “This award is testament to the hard work and dedication of our local businesses and community – we’re so proud of everyone involved!

“I want to thank everyone. The traders did a great job during judging day.

“And all the residents for their support.”

She praised the people of the village, commending them for giving up their time to get involved in community projects, such as the popular summer festival.

She said: “Newport, as a village, has a disproportionate number of people volunteering. There are huge numbers. I think the people here are really passionate.”

Ms Myles explained that the £5000 funding would not be spent “frivolously”, although some would be used to host some sort of celebration in the future, when the weather improves. The members of the traders’ association will put forward ideas on how the rest of the funds are used.

While the High Street is crammed with local traders now, Kate Legg, retiring secretary of the village’s community council, said that was not always the case.

She praised the traders for bringing “life back to the High Street”.

“We depend on individual traders, but it’s the kind of things people want, and the kind of things they can’t get online,” Ms Legg added.

“There’s nothing worse than an empty high street, but it needs the enthusiasm of the traders and we are very thankful for that. They’ve brought a buzz back to Newport.”