Anger at plans to close Portsmouth’s tourist centre at The Hard

CLOSING The visitor centre at The Hard, Portsmouth.  Picture: Steve Reid (120284-123)
CLOSING The visitor centre at The Hard, Portsmouth. Picture: Steve Reid (120284-123)
The countryside surrounding Harting Down in the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex.

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PLANS to close a tourist information centre in the heart of Portsmouth have been criticised.

Portsmouth City Council has taken the decision not to renew the lease of the Visitor Information Centre, at The Hard when it expires at the end of March.

It said the move was a combined result of three factors. The first is a fall in the number of people visiting the shop, outside the entrance to the Historic Dockyard.

An increase in the use of a smaller scale service inside the D-Day Museum, at Southsea Seafront, has also contributed to the decision, alongside an increase in the number of people accessing the council’s website.

Almost three times as many people used the website last year as used the visitor centre. The council has vowed to increase its service inside the Southsea museum and its digital content.

But some are not happy at the loss of the centre.

Eddie Booker, 74, of Grenville Road, Southsea, said: ‘The centre is in the perfect location at the moment – I can’t understand why the council wants to move it.

‘It’s right in the heart of the tourist destinations, and all the trains, buses and ferries go there. The seafront is a nice location, but is very difficult to get to by public transport and it’s hidden away from everything else.’

The council said it was looking for ways to keep some form of visitor information service at The Hard. It also hopes to create new access points scattered across the city in tourist attractions and libraries. Staff from the closed centre will be moved to these new desks.

Stephen Baily, the council’s head of culture, said: ‘The D-Day museum has proved to be a successful venue for visitor information, so we’re looking at using libraries and tourist attractions across the city to expand this service wider.

‘We’ve seen a decline in people using visitor information centres, but an increase in hits to our visit Portsmouth website, so it makes sense to focus on developing new technology to give people the best visitor experience.’

Last year only 134,141 used the visitor centre, compared to the 339,674 that viewed visitportsmouth