PLANS have been announced to give the North End shopping area a boost.
Portsmouth City Council is working with businesses in the area to develop ideas to improve the declining shopping area.
It comes as traders met with the council last month and a number of key areas were identified for improvement.
Parking featured high among traders’ concerns and the council has responded with plans to create new spaces on the main road as well as a 12-month trial of free parking periods and new rates for short stay parking.
Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘A district shopping centre can be the vibrant heart of an area and this is what we want for North End.
‘We are committed to making improvements wherever we can.
‘The council doesn’t own the retail premises in North End so there are limits to what we can do on our own, but we are keen to work with landowners and businesses to support them.’
Councillor Ken Ellcome, the council’s cabinet member for traffic and transportation, said: ‘Removing parking spaces in North End has impacted on people’s shopping habits.
‘We’re introducing a number of initiatives to try to encourage people back to the area and this includes reinstating some of the parking on the main road where it is safe to do so.’
Cllr Jones said the council would also be looking at encouraging people to build developments above the shops.
Cllr Jones added: ‘You only have to look at the number of local high streets throughout London to see how having developments above retail premises can sustain shopping areas.
‘I want North End to have its own supplementary planning document which outlines the sort of development we would welcome and our aspirations to help boost the area.
‘I have pledged to contact the owners of the freeholds in North End to ask them to consider developing above the shops.
‘The creation of additional homes directly in the vicinity of this shopping area will breathe life into the high street. There are grants available to support the development of new low-cost homes across the city.’
The council is also encouraging businesses to group together and start a business association to allow them to help improve the area together.
Councillor Luke Stubbs, the council’s cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, said: ‘A local shopping centre the size of North End should have a business association.
‘Previous organisations have disbanded because of a lack of support from businesses, but we’d encourage the current traders to work together to create a collective voice and make a positive difference.’
Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North who has campaigned for improvements to the area, said: ‘It’s good that action is being taken and any measures to enable people to pop into the shops, drop off and pick up goods will be welcome in the short term.
‘The council is right to think longer term too and develop a strategy to support the area looking at retail, leisure and residential.
‘It’s a promising move by the city council, which I hope will mark the start of further initiatives.’