A HUGE mural has been painted on to the front of empty shops in a bid to brighten up an entrance to a town.
Southsea artist Oliver Merkin created the impressive artwork, which covers the bottom retail units of the Cosham Interchange building, in Portsmouth Road – opposite Cosham railway station.
The mural includes a painting of an RAF plane, which Mr Merkin decided to include as he is interested in Portsmouth’s military history.
Nearby shops also got the chance to submit their ideas for the project, which was paid for by housing association First Wessex, which owns the flats above.
Mr Merkin, 38, was joined by Councillor Aiden Gray as well as representatives from local businesses for the mural’s grand opening.
Mr Merkin, who has been commissioned by First Wessex to paint murals in Portsmouth before, said: ‘To start with we conducted a consultation to see if people wanted this to be done and thankfully they did.
‘They wanted something which showed visitors that Cosham is still open.’
Cllr Gray, who is the council’s new cabinet member for community safety, added: ‘In recent years a lot of residents have complained about the area lacking life and colour.
‘Mr Merkin has done a brilliant job of the mural, I’m really impressed with it and I hope it restores people’s faith in Cosham.
‘Now as you walk or drive into Cosham you will be greeted by this big, friendly, welcoming sign.
‘Though there isn’t the money to help rejuvenate the shops in a big way, small projects like this can make all the difference.’
In recent times Cosham has been known for the activities of clamping firm City Watch, which patrols car parks behind the Iceland store.
The firm is likely to be booted out by Portsmouth City Council by the end of the summer.
Andrew Mason, head of regeneration at First Wessex added: ‘We are delighted to be able to play a part in supporting Cosham’s traditional High Street. We hope that the mural brightens up the local area and draws new businesses to empty retail units.’