Debate over recession-hit high streets

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WITH the UK officially back in recession, voters are looking to politicians for solutions in difficult times.

One symbol of the financial downturn has been the increasing number of empty shops in high streets across the region.

Schemes to regenerate once-busy shopping districts have been launched in many areas, but these too can fall foul of the faltering economy.

Lib Dem councillor Katrina Trott, who will defend her seat in Fareham East on May 3, said there were no easy answers to boost our high streets.

‘Councils are limited,’ she said. ‘But more could be done to reduce business rates and possibly parking charges.

‘In Fareham, 68 per cent of people surveyed think parking is expensive or very expensive.

‘Although I have always said it is a matter of use it or lose it.

‘People bemoan the loss of meat shops, fish shops and clothes shops, but that is often because they don’t use them.’

In Havant, defending Tory councillor for St Faith’s ward David Guest said changes in shopping habits were partly to blame.

He said: ‘It is not just down to the big supermarkets and the internet.

‘As much as we might like the traditional high street shops I don’t think they are ever coming back the way they were.’

He added: ‘I’m bringing in developers and investors who can see the opportunities to create more town centre housing to bring more people into the town centres. People living there are going to want to spend locally and we have a wonderful opportunity to do that.’

But Labour candidate for Portsmouth’s Nelson ward Ken Ferrett said he was sure more could be done to boost areas such as North End.

He said: ‘There are too many takeaways and charity shops.

‘We need to try and attract better quality shops to try and increase the footfall.

‘Things like the stalled Northern Quarter development are also important.

‘If that could be progressing faster the knock-on effect on shopping in the city would be very positive.’