Twelve town centres across the country will share a £1.2m fund to revitalise their high streets after being nominated as the first Portas Pilots.

Announcing the pilots, local government minister Grant Shapps said the “quality and sheer number of applications” had been overwhelming. A further 15 pilots will be announced by the end of July, including three which will be funded by the Greater London Authority.

The first pilots will now have the chance to implement their high street-reviving ideas and take forward a key recommendation in Mary Portas’ high street review.

Some of the pilots’ ideas include offering community use of empty properties in Bedford; opening up central spaces to classes and clubs and starting a school for shopkeepers in Dartford, Kent; creating a vibrant arts scene, guerrillas gardening and ‘yarn bombing’ in Liskeard, Cornwall; and establishing a bicycle rickshaw service in Bedminster, Bristol.

The other pilot towns are Croydon in Greater London, Margate in Kent, Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, Nelson in Lancashire, Newbiggin by the Sea in Northumberland, Stockport in Greater Manchester, Stockton on Tees in Teeside, and Wolverhampton.

Mary Portas said: “I’ve been deeply touched by both the quality and creativity of the bids and the momentum Britain’s first town teams have generated in just a few short weeks.

“It is now clearer to me than ever that Britain wants its town centre revitalised and the energy and accountability for that needs to rest with the people who live and do business there.”