Office space key to saving Portsmouth’s high street, according to think tank

MORE needs to be done to provide office space within Portsmouth city centre to boost the city’s economy and protect the high street, according to an independent think tank.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 10:59 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 9:55 pm
Commercial Road, Portsmouth Picture by Malcolm Wells

Centre for Cities, a non-partisan research organisation, has been analysing Portsmouth – and 61 other cities across the UK – for ways to improve the performance of UK city economies.

Analysts met with representatives from Portsmouth City Council on Thursday to discuss their findings.

Rebecca McDonald, from Centre for Cities, said: ‘We presented evidence to them and had a discussion about what they could do about it and how we could help them.

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‘For Portsmouth, it is in the top half of cities for productivity – 21 out of 62 – but this is at the national average so there is quite a lot of cities that are more productive. It is not bad but there is room for improvement.’

Portsmouth’s GVA per worker in 2017 was £55,558.56 (21/62) – a reliable comparable figure in terms of productivity.

Centre for Cities looks at wide range of key indicators, such as population, housing, employment, skills, wages, plus much more.

Rebecca said that Portsmouth could improve its economy by increasing the amount of office space it provides in the city centre. She said that while the suburbs were performing well on office space percentage, the city centre only had 25 per cent office space, compared to stronger performing cities that had 62 per cent.

She said: ‘The city centre is skewed towards retail and that’s an indicator of a weak city centre. A strong centre is important to drive growth of the economy.

‘Lots of businesses are choosing to be further out as they can get high quality office space cheaper and they can access the road links but that makes it harder to sustain a vibrant high street. Businesses get many benefits by working together and being close by.’

Other areas highlighted by the research showed that while Portsmouth was strong at providing early years education - it was below average for GCSE results.

Cllr Ben Dowling, Portsmouth City Council's cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, said: ‘It is reassuring to hear our plans align with the statistics from Centre for Cities.

‘We are committed to improving the city centre in a number of ways and those plans include providing the business space the area is currently lacking. Creating new offices will support local businesses and encourage new businesses to the city, which creates jobs for residents and boosts the local economy.’

To see all the data go to centreforcities.org/city/portsmouth/