BLASTING away grime and dirt from Portsmouth’s Commercial Road could be the key to attracting new stores – and could give the beleaguered shopping street a shot in the arm, regeneration bosses have claimed.
Today is the launch of a new four-week trial which will see cleaners use high-powered jet hoses to douse Commercial Road with cleaning fluids.
It’s hoped the hot wash will destroy years of caked-on muck coating the pavement of the city centre, which businesses say has been left to languish for too long.
If successful, the council aims to then tackle the entire length of the shopping precinct, giving it a cleaner, fresher look – something officials say will boost trade and help secure more high-end shops.
And city council regeneration chiefs claimed a cleaner Commercial Road would be key in the long-term success of a £60m road revamp scheme – plans which The News understands will be submitted to the authority next week.
Mark Pembleton, economic growth manager at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘The benefits for the city, if this is successful, will be huge. We will get increased footfall and better shops wanting to come to the city. It would be great.’
The cleaning will take place three times a week, from 6am to 8am, covering a small segment of Commercial Road near the Ann Summers store.
However, veteran traders fear this has come too little, too late, and that more concrete ambitions are needed to bolster trade in the city centre.
Wendy Shilcock has run G & S Jewellers for more than three decades. She said: ‘This is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Commercial Road is completely and utterly demised. We need more quality shops.’
Mr Pembleton said the council was doing all it could to keep occupation rates high, adding: ‘We get lots of cities phone us and say: “What’s your secret in Portsmouth, your city centre is so thriving?”.
‘So we shouldn’t ever say we’re not doing well but we can do better and this is part of making us an even better city.’
The council has been working alongside bosses at Gunwharf Quays, which uses a similar cleaning regime.
An initial trial of the Gunwharf-inspired cleaning effort took place earlier this year in Palmerston Road, Southsea, with mixed reviews.
Portsmouth’s culture boss, Councillor Linda Symes, hopes the Commercial Road test would be better. But she said regenerating the whole city would take more than just cleaning up one area.
She said: ‘Everyone needs to play their part. It’s a problem we all face. We need to work together to make this city cleaner.’
Cllr Symes said if the trial was hailed a success, the council could begin action to renegotiate a city-wide cleaning deal.
She added: ‘There are areas of the city that could be considered over-cleaned and so there’s a possibility to negotiate a change to take some bits out and put some bits in or it might be that we have to negotiate to pay extra.’
As previously reported, the £60m road plan would see a raft of work taking place, including turning Hope Street and Flathouse Road into a dual carriageway.