THEY were released as a symbol of a new beginning.
Traders at the once ridiculed Park Parade shopping centre, in Leigh Park, released a dozen white doves on Saturday at the grand opening of six new shops.
The shopping district hit the headlines when a survey revealed that Leigh Park had the highest level of empty shops in the country.
But, since the report was carried out last year the number of empty shops has dropped from 36.4 per cent to just 19 per cent.
Funeral director Paul Bigwood is one of the traders who had the confidence to open a new business in Park Parade.
Along with the other members of the new Leigh Park Traders’ Association he wants to rebrand Park Parade and neighbouring Greywell Precinct.
He said: ‘This whole area used to be part of the Staunton country estate so we thought the perfect name would be the Staunton Shopping Centre.
‘It will give the whole area a lift. This place needs a new image and a rebranding.
‘We will have the same shopkeepers, and hopefully more, but it will be a new start to encourage people to shop here.
‘It will be good for the area and we released the doves to symbolise that.’
A new landlord has encouraged new business to the area which Councillor Mike Fairhurst, who’s responsible for economic issues at Havant Borough Council, said he was delighted to see.
‘The council is always keen to hear the views and suggestions of residents and business communities about making changes and improvements to their area,’ he said.
‘I am delighted that the traders of the shopping area in the centre of Leigh Park want to move forward and regenerate their area, and fully support what they are trying to do.
‘The council will provide whatever advice and assistance it can to help them achieve this.
‘I am pleased with results that see new shop units opening and hope this is an upward trend encouraging further growth for the local economy.’