CALLS have been made for residents to be consulted over the future of land no longer being transformed into a £300m shopping complex.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt believes ‘lessons need to be learned’ after Centros pulled out of creating a retail hub on the site of the former Tricorn Centre – in an area known as the Northern Quarter.
She says action needs to be taken given the city centre has been ‘in stasis’ for more than decade – and plans for the area ‘did not stack up’ nor fit in with Gunwharf Quays.
Ms Mordaunt criticised landowner Portsmouth City Council – while under the former Lib Dem administration – for its lack of ‘business acumen’ and failure to listen to retailers about changes in the retail market like the rise of online shopping.
The Lib Dems were largely responsible for overseeing the Northern Quarter project before the Tories came to power in June this year.
‘The council must learn from this, and it must more closely align its plans to business,’ Ms Mordaunt said.
‘It needs to ensure it gets good advice, and is fully aware of the trends in retail and the opportunities that come with it.
‘Good advice is not far way – Southampton University has produced some excellent work in this area.
‘But most of all, it now needs to consult with its own residents about what they want to see and the services and facilities that want to see develop.’
Ms Mordaunt, high streets minister, will carry out her own consultation with retail experts and wants the views of residents about their vision for the city centre.
She added: ‘To have pushed ahead with a purely retail-focussed plan when retail is telling you it’s not going to work would have a disastrous outcome, and certainly would not have sustained 1,500 jobs.
‘Not only do we need a sensible plan – the Northern Quarter must link in with Gunwharf, perhaps with a trolley-bus linking the two sites – but we also need action-now.’
But Councillor Hugh Mason, former Lib Dem deputy leader, said the council should see what it can salvage first. ‘The strategy the council developed about 10 to 12 years ago was that there would be three quite distinct shopping areas in Portsmouth,’ he said.
‘It was developed in consultation with some of the best minds in retailing.’
Cllr Luke Stubbs, Tory cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, said: ‘The ball is very much in Centros’ court. It has a 50-year lease on the car park.’