Huge cash boost to help revive two Hampshire town’s high streets

MONEY COMING IN Gosport has been awarded �100,000 to spend on its High Street
MONEY COMING IN Gosport has been awarded �100,000 to spend on its High Street
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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TWO towns in our area have scooped a £200,000 cash boost in a bid to revive struggling high street shops.

Gosport and Fareham have been chosen by the government to receive £100,000 each.

The money could be used to help fledgling businesses and put empty shops back into use.

Both councils are now looking into how best to spend the funds to help their shopping precincts.

The leader of Fareham Borough Council, Councillor Sean Woodward, said the money would help the town fight off competition from the upcoming shopping development in Whiteley.

He said: ‘Our main target is to make sure we’re in a good place when the Whiteley shopping centre opens in a year’s time.

‘The centre is much bigger than Whiteley needs and we are worried about the effect it will have.

‘Fareham’s town centre is actually doing very well and I was surprised to get this money.

‘Only one in 20 shops is empty and that number is dropping.

‘On making enquiries it seems they were looking at empty shop spaces in town centres and empty spaces in business centres and I think that’s what got the money for us.’

Cllr Woodward said the council would not make any plans until it has access to the cash, but that it is expected to be made available soon.

The fund comes on the back of proposals made earlier this year by TV retail expert Mary Portas.

The High Street Innovation Fund was set up in response to the Portas Review, which put forward 28 ideas on how to kick start high streets.

The government responded to Mary Portas’s advice with a ‘Portas Plus’ scheme which included £10m to help 100 high streets tackle the blight of empty shops.

Gosport and Fareham are two of only a handful in the Hampshire area to benefit.

Gosport’s council leader, Cllr Mark Hook, said his council is looking into how best to spend the cash.

He said: ‘Our economic development team is looking at how we can use the funding to move things on and how to spend it.

‘The money will be used for a variety of things but predominantly to try and give added value to the high street.

‘Every penny we get will help take the high street forward.’

Meanwhile, business leaders in Gosport are still waiting to hear whether the town will be chosen as a Mary Portas pilot town.

This would mean more funding and special measures to help boost retail.

North End in Portsmouth has also applied to become a Portas pilot.