THE first signs of recovery have come to Havant as businesses move into a huge empty building, say council leaders.
They say said the development shows the worst may be over for the town centre, which has struggled through a double-dip recession.
South Park Court, a modern building in Park Road South, was completed almost three years ago but the 6,243sq ft retail unit on the ground floor has remained empty – until now.
Workmen have this week been gutting the ground floor as two new shops move in.
They are Majestic Wine and iHOT, a tanning salon.
Meanwhile, it is understood a planning application will soon be submitted as developers look to revamp Market Parade.
David Guest, deputy leader of Havant Borough Council, said businesses moving into South Park Court was a great sign.
He said: ‘It’s fantastic news.
‘It vindicates the whole idea.
‘It’s the final link between West Street and Solent Retail Park.
‘The amount of foot traffic I see going back and forwards – it’s considerable.
‘Everywhere you look there’s just more and more happening in our town of Havant despite all the moaners and nay-sayers who said the town was dead and nothing was happening.’
Kate Turner, former chairwoman of Havant and Bedhampton Community Network, who runs two businesses, said: ‘I think things are turning.
‘I know from my business that things are easier.
‘People are getting more confident and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.’
Park Road North and South – which have been seen as a dividing line between the old and new parts of the town – are at the centre of a £600,000 revamp to spruce up the area.
Cllr Guest added: ‘We have been through a double-dip recession and it’s been very difficult on the high street.
‘We are coming out of it because there is so much to offer in Havant.
‘We have the highly successful Langstone Technology Park and we have a lot of young professional people coming into the town.’
Business leaders agreed there were encouraging signs, but said times were still tough.
Terry Jordan, acting chairman of Havant Business Group, said: ‘It’s looking on the up – but we are still losing more than what’s coming in.’