Give Gosport the Portas treatment, say town leaders

SPEAKING OUT  Ian Welland from the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce visits Gosport shopping precinct.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves (120454-1)
SPEAKING OUT Ian Welland from the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce visits Gosport shopping precinct. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (120454-1)
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THERE have been fresh calls for Gosport to receive special help from TV shopping expert Mary Portas.

Government ministers have announced plans to set up 12 pilot towns to test ideas from Ms Portas on how to help dying high streets.

If chosen, Gosport would try a list of 28 proposals she put forward and would benefit from a share of £1m to help turn the high street around.

Town leaders are now putting together a bid for Gosport to be included in the Portas pilot scheme.

But despite the calls, figures released yesterday show the town is actually doing better than most.

The leader of Gosport Borough Council Mark Hook said: ‘The main message for us is that Gosport is open for business.

‘If someone like Mary Portas could come in and give some help and advice then that should be welcomed.

‘She has made 28 recommendations.

‘Half of those are things for the government to look at, like business rates which aren’t set by the council.

‘Businesses would benefit from things like that.’

Figures released yesterday show that nationally one in seven high street shops sat empty last year. But in Gosport, the figure is a more promising one in 10.

Roughly one in 10 shops in Havant and Waterlooville sits empty while in Leigh Park it is one in five.

In Fareham’s West Street it is around one in 20.

Cllr Hook said he was delighted Gosport bucked the trend but said the figures shouldn’t scupper the town’s bid to be a Portas pilot.

‘We would like a thriving town centre and I think Gosport would be an ideal candidate for the pilot,’ added Cllr Hook.

‘What’s pleasing is the number of shops that have opened recently.

‘At the moment 163 out of 182 shops are open, but we would like to see 182 out of 182 shops open.’

Gosport’s MP Caroline Dinenage started the calls by urging the government to choose Gosport in Parliament.

She said: ‘Gosport would be a brilliant pilot town.

‘My vision for Gosport is something that capitalises on our unique location.’