The government has received bids from 371 towns to become one of 12 ‘Portas Pilots’ to help revive their high streets.

The winning bids, which will receive a share of a £1.2m fund, will be announced in May. The government adopted the initiative following Mary Portas’ high street review and has now announced a further round of 12 pilots in response to the high demand.

Shapps said: “High streets have faced stiff challenges from internet shopping and out-of-town centre, yet there is still a clear desire from communities to see them survive. We have received a fantastic 371 bids to become one of the first 12 Portas pilots.

“That’s why, as part of our Portas Plus response to Mary’s review, I’ve launched a second round of this competition to fund a further 12 pilot areas.”

The government was recently urged to implement Mary Portas’ recommendation that all out of town planning applications be subject to exceptional approval by ministers.

Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said: “The most important Portas recommendation was for the Government to call in all out of town planning applications for exceptional approval by ministers.

“If this recommendation is not implemented, it will undermine not only Mary Portas’ excellent work, but also the new National Planning Policy Framework.”