Southsea Debenhams: Consultation sees more than 400 people give their views on what should happen to closed store

NEW homes, a gym, a hotel and a literary exhibition - these were just some of the ideas floated by Southsea residents for the future of a former department store.

Saturday, 1st February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 1st February 2020, 1:41 pm
Debenhams in Southsea, which is set to be redeveloped following its closure. Picture Ian Hargreaves (170058-1)

Within just a few hours more than 400 visitors had attended a public consultation held yesterday to consider possibilities for the now empty Debenhams building in Palmerston Road.

The store, which shut on January 19, will be developed by the National Regional Property Group with a mix of retail, homes and leisure under consideration.

The development will be renamed Handleys’ Corner in recognition of its life before it was Debenhams.

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Shaun Adams, the chief executive of the group, said: ‘We recognise the importance of the site – along with Knight & Lee it is a gateway into Palmerston Road.

‘We know it will become a mix of commercial and residential but how that ultimately fits together will become clearer over time. And we don’t know yet if it will be converted or all new build.’

Some Southsea residents wanted to see the structure demolished.

Betty Burns, 78, said: ‘Knock it down and start again.

‘I think some residential homes would be nice. And it’s big enough for a small hotel as well.’

James Preem, 32, agreed. ‘I think the building’s not designed to be residential at all,’ he said.

‘I think it would be better starting from scratch.’

However, 58-year-old Marek Kotas said: ‘I would like to see it refurbished. I think it would be more sustainable to keep the existing building. And I wouldn’t trust the architects to create a nice design.’

Others had hopes it could be a ‘fitting’ space to exhibit the work of literary icon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Mark Wingett, 32, who is also from Southsea, said: ‘Sherlock Holmes is massive cultural figure.

‘The fact he was created in Portsmouth means that Sherlock Holmes would be coming home.

‘It could become an extremely game-changing cultural hub.’

Portchester resident Norman Hart, 75, added: ‘There’s been talk of the Arthur Conan Doyle collection there, which I think is a really good idea.’

Feedback from residents will be considered before another consultation is held in March.

Plans will then be submitted to Portsmouth City Council. If approved it is hoped work will begin at the end of 2020.