SHOPKEEPER Chris Smith is offering to pay for his customers’ parking in a bid to lure people back to Leigh Park’s shopping centre.
The 24-year-old says that parking charges put many people off visiting Park Parade and the Greywell Centre.
So in a bid to increase footfall, he is offering to pay customers £1.50 – the charge for two hours in the council-run car parks – when they spend £15 or more.
Mr Smith opened his toy shop, Carousel Toys and Gifts, two months ago in Greywell precinct.
Mr Smith, from Southsea, said: ‘People have had a negative impression of Leigh Park for a while in terms of it being a ghost town.
‘I have been here two months and things are looking good.
‘There’s been a lot of new shops opening recently.
‘This is about a turnaround in the area and I am trying to get people to see it for themselves.’
Leigh Park has 268 spaces in the council-run car parks at Greywell and Tidworth Road.
There are also free 30-minute spaces in the bays in Somborne Drive.
Mr Smith said there should be more free spaces so people can have a proper walk round to see what is on offer.
‘Free parking would encourage people to come from Havant, Bedhampton, Farlington and even Portsmouth,’ he said.
‘You have the big chains – but they can’t offer everything a small shop can.’
There is a parking review going on across Havant.
Councillor David Collins, who is in charge of the environment at Havant Borough Council, said: ‘Schemes like this are being looked at as part of the review.
‘It’s the sort of initiative we want.
‘Maybe we could meet Mr Smith halfway?
‘We know we can’t keep upping the car parking charges every year, it’s not realistic. We want to support our local shopkeepers.’