Time to put a beating heart back into historic town

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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Gunwharf Quays changed the face of Portsmouth, spawning renewed 21st century confidence in the city.

The redevelopment of Priddy’s Hard and the Royal Clarence Yard at Gosport has given that town a new lease of life, while Fareham has successfully managed to retain a blend of old and new drawing people from across the area.

Then we come to Havant. Or perhaps we don’t. And that’s the problem.

Let’s face it, there is not much these days to attract anyone to Havant who lives outside that town.

This is a crying shame for the one-time premier parchment-making town in England (the Treaty of Versailles, the post-First World War agreement which re-shaped Europe, was written on it) – a town which was famed for the quality of its leather processing and glove-making.

It is sad because it is home to one of the busiest railway stations in the south.

Thousands of commuters pour into and out of it twice a day, yet few would think twice about making the short walk into the heart of the town. But that is what it does not possess – a heart.

However, perhaps now, at long last, that might be about to change.

As we report on page 7 today, an investment of up to £40m might be Havant-bound in the next decade as part of plans to regenerate the town centre.

The proposals have just been unveiled and what we are delighted to see is they include a new gateway with the redevelopment of the long-shabby Market Parade – the first thing with which people are confronted when they emerge from the railway station. It is so run-down that anyone contemplating spending time in the town would be forgiven for turning straight around and catching the next train out.

Hopefully the planners and developers will soon move on to solving the problem of the Meridian shopping centre, the development which successfully spliced the town centre in two.

For too long Havant has been the poor relation of the towns and city which comprise south-east Hampshire. Perhaps that is about to change. We hope so.

The full story is here.