North End ‘is like Gotham City’

DESPONDENT Glen Goon, 33, of Southsea, with, right, former 'Touch of Ink' owner Steve Hunter, 36, of Hilsea. Inset: the interior of Touch of Ink after it was turned over by thieves who stole more than �6,000 worth of gear
DESPONDENT Glen Goon, 33, of Southsea, with, right, former 'Touch of Ink' owner Steve Hunter, 36, of Hilsea. Inset: the interior of Touch of Ink after it was turned over by thieves who stole more than �6,000 worth of gear
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SHOPKEEPERS say they feel betrayed by a lack of support amid claims of a rise in crime in North End.

Steve Hunter, former owner of tattoo shop Touch of Ink, was forced to close his Kingston Road business after 10 years when thieves broke in and stole £6,000 worth of equipment.

Mr Hunter, 36, said the area has turned into Gotham City – the fictional crime-ridden setting of the Batman stories.

‘This is the second break-in I’ve had in 10 years, I’ve had the windows done in three or four times in the past five months,’ he said.

‘I’m not paying out for it any more – I’m just sick of it.’

‘It gets you depressed going along this road now. You look at it and you just think “these aren’t the memories you had when you grew up”. It’s turned into a Gotham City.

‘IIt used to be quite a community but now it’s just so disjointed you don’t even recognise growing up here.

‘When you’ve got McDonald’s going out of business, something is wrong in this town.’

It comes shortly after the London Road branch of HSBC closed down and in the same month traders voiced their frustration with bins in the area being left overfilled and rubbish being dumped at the back of their premises.

Other business owners, such as Liz McDonald, who runs a clothing alteration service, say the community spirit has deteriorated rapidly.

‘It’s so different,’ she said.

‘There’s a lot of drinkers. I’ve had the odd egg thrown on the window. It’s quite scary.’

But Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North and minister for high streets, town centres and markets, has defended North End, saying: ‘I don’t think the community is lost at all.

‘There are some great people and great shops down there.

‘I think there is quite a bit of work to be done both on Kingston Road and on the London Road Stretch.

‘On the vandalism front and the parking issue the council needs to act now.’

Ms Mordaunt has suggested to Portsmouth City Council that street wardens should be introduced to the area.

‘The wardens would just operate in that community, and they will go in and advise the traders on things they can do to help themselves,’ she said.

‘We have seen from Brighton and other areas that it has reduced crime. It’s a strong high street but we have to do more to make it a fantastic high street in the future.’

Ms Mordaunt has previously surveyed shops in the area and sent the findings to Portsmouth City Council, including suggestions to establish a weekly market, reduce parking costs, and set up more pedestrian areas.

Leader of the council, Donna Jones, says there are three main issues facing areas such as Kingston Road.

‘Firstly a reduction in parking spaces, secondly business rates which are crippling small businesses in Portsmouth, and another thing is the general apprearance of the area,’ she explained.

‘We are reviewing parking schemes across the city and people should let us know things we can do to help.

‘I would urge Penny Mordaunt and local MPs to carry out a review and put pressure on the government to allow business rates to be more flexible.’

Ms Jones is also optimistic about the launch of a new ‘Clean City Team’, going live on April 20, which will help tackle problems like the ones faced by business owners in Kingston Road.

Steuart Payne, a pastor at Family Church on Kingston Road, says the issues are not as bad as others may 
think.

‘Occasionally someone comes in, makes a bit of a noise and a scene and you have to ask them to sit outside or go but to us it’s not a chronic problem.’

Hampshire Constabulary did not comment when approached by The News.