FURIOUS traders say they are taking legal action against Portsmouth City Council over the way it implemented a controversial pedestrian zone.
Businesses in the southern precinct of Palmerston Road, Southsea, will lodge a judicial review against the authority because they feel they haven’t been listened to.
They say there’s a case to answer because a consultation process carried out before the £500,000 scheme was introduced in 2012 was flawed, and that the closure of the road is killing trade.
It comes after a survey by The News revealed 24 of the 31 firms in the road are unhappy with the restrictions.
The council maintains it came about on the back of strong support by firms – but Peter Young, of Hong Kong Charlie’s Vodka Bar, said at least two-thirds of the 31 shops in the road didn’t want them.
He circulated a petition that attracted 200 signatures in opposition a year before the zone’s introduction.
But Mr Young said councillors at the meeting which decided the plans would go ahead said they hadn’t seen the petition in advance.
‘With all the money the council has spent, what has it achieved?’ he said.
‘It tried creating cafe culture, but it has not done that.
‘Instead, it has turned Palmerston Road into a ghost town.’
Yusuf Ali, of Akram’s Oriential Supermarket, which has seen trade plummet by 50 per cent, said: ‘Seventy per cent of our customers complain that they can’t find a parking space.
‘Our disabled customers are very upset about the situation and we are very unhappy.’
Sandy Peters, owner of Sopranos restaurant, said it felt like councillors had made their minds up before the latest council meeting which decided the road would be fully pedestrianised once the 700 service bus route is rerouted.
As reported, it comes after a consultation with more than 6,000 households showed the majority favoured the move.
‘I was very upset that their minds had been made up and I felt completely ignored,’ Mrs Peters said.
Mr Young said the traders should have been listened to. ‘In life you will always have people who do and don’t like something, but we are the traders who know the area,’ he said.
Sophie Curtis, of Preloved Portsmouth, has blamed the zone for an increase in crime.
‘My purse was stolen from the shop and my boss (Marion Wren) had her car stolen,’ she said.
Cllr Hugh Mason, deputy leader of the council, and councillor for the area, said: ‘All the evidence we have shows this is something which people approve of. The council has gone through proper process from first to last.
‘It has consulted and consulted properly as it was required to do.’
Seventeen firms support legal action, and they now need to sign a letter of intent proving they will pick up legal costs – which could be around £5,000 – should they lose the case.
Spencer Shaw Solicitors, which is taking on the case, will then write to the council as a way of serving notice of action being taken. Ian Jones, the firm’s principal solicitor, said he did not wish to comment at this stage.