SHOPPING in Portsmouth must be given a drastic overhaul or we will risk losing thousands of extra visitors and millions of pounds to other cities.
That’s the warning from community leaders who believe action needs to be taken to incentivise future Welborne residents to spend in the city, otherwise Southampton, Winchester and Guildford will cash in.
Southampton’s WestQuay is attracting people more because it has a bigger range of shops. What do we have here? When you look at Cascades, it is much lower end.Portsmouth Society trustee Lyndsay Edwards
It comes after Welborne, a 6,000-home new town north of Fareham, was voted through by borough councillors, meaning building work could start as early as next year.
That is why campaigners believe Portsmouth City Council, retailers and developers need to work up a strategy now – and work out how the Northern Quarter shopping vision can be revived.
The council revealed last year developer Centros had pulled the plug on the £300m project to transform the Tricorn centre into a huge shopping complex, a plan that had been 10 years in the making but hampered by the recession and legal disputes.
And in a further blow, The News understands the site is to remain a car park for another five years after a new deal was signed with leaseholder NCP.
Portsmouth Society trustee Lyndsay Edwards, who is pushing for more development in the city, said: ‘We are already losing shoppers who live in the city to Southampton, and places as far as Brighton. When we talk of 6,000 new homes in Welborne, that will be 12,000 to 15,000 people. They will be younger people as well, and they are the ones that spend the money.’ Mrs Edwards says there needs to be greater diversity with a bigger mix of small, independent shops and bigger brands.
She also thinks shop space could be merged to make shopping easier and in turn help cut business rates.
‘Southampton’s WestQuay is attracting people more because it has a bigger range of shops,’ she said.
‘What do we have here? When you look at Cascades, it is much lower end.
‘This is our opportunity, instead of keeping to the same old shopping mall model, to look at having something different. Our shopping needs to be different. We need to be accessible, we need to offer something the whole family will be attracted to. The Northern Quarter absolutely has to be a priority.
‘That is still an area of deprivation.’
Labour planning and regeneration spokesman, Cllr Aiden Gray, said there needs to be a whole city approach to improving retail – and better public transport is a must. It comes as fears are raised about the future of North End’s high street after shops left the area.
‘We need a focus on business across the city, not just Gunwharf and Commercial Road,’ said Cllr Gray.
‘Part of it is improving the park-and-ride in terms of the way it’s set up.
‘But we have to balance that with the amount of money the council has to spend on these projects.’
Ukip councillor Julie Swan, who led a review into the future of the city’s shopping offer, said: ‘With the likes of Welborne, those people won’t be looking at places like Allaway Avenue, they will be looking to the town centre, Southsea and Gunwharf, and we need to incentivise the park-and-ride to bring them in.
‘The Northern Quarter situation needs to be resolved, there’s no doubt about that.’
Tory planning and regeneration boss, Cllr Luke Stubbs, assured work was being done. ‘The current year’s capital budget sets aside £100,000 for North End, the same amount for Fratton and £500,000 for the city centre,’ he said.
He added: ‘Portsmouth should endeavour to take trade from the new residents in Welborne. The development of the Northern Quarter site is really a matter for Delancey (the investor behind the scheme). The council is always welcoming of proposals to expand the city centre and within the constraints of the resources we have, we will do what we can.’