TRADERS in Fareham have expressed their concerns about shoppers deserting the town in favour of a new shopping development.
The Whiteley shopping centre was a hot topic of conversation at the latest business breakfast meeting held by Fareham Borough Council yesterday.
Traders from Fareham town centre were invited to a breakfast, presentation and feedback session at Ferneham Hall.
Fareham Borough Council hopes to improve communication and boost vibrancy in the town centre through these meetings.
Since the last meeting in July the council has worked to address issues such as the complexity of car parking, the high cost associated with parking in the town centre and the lack of a website.
Leader of Fareham Borough Council Sean Woodward said: ‘The traders like to see action and they have seen it.
‘Before Whiteley happens we will have delivered an awful lot of what they wanted.’
Traders spoke of their fears that big-name brands will desert Fareham in favour of Whiteley.
Keith Pritchett from 4u2Brew on West Street said: ‘Whiteley is going to happen but the focus will be the main stores.
‘If Fareham Shopping Centre becomes obsolete, it will kill the town centre.’
Cllr Woodward said: ‘It would be a very sorry town centre if all the big names were to go. We are right to be concerned but what we need to do is make sure our offering is different. Whiteley will have shops but not a lot more.
‘I believe there are things we can do but realise we don’t have the monopoly on ideas which is why we hold meetings like this.’
Tim Clark from Hughes Ellard said that Whiteley was looking to attract more aspirational brands and that Fareham should not be worried as most big names are tied to long leases in Fareham.
Ideas raised by traders included making parking free on late nights, improving the signage, increasing greenery and seating, making it easier to get into Fareham on the roads and putting pressure on landlords to tidy up empty retail units.