Television guru’s plan could boost Gosport high street

IN NEED OF A BOOST Caroline Dinenage says the High Street is suffering from 'a bout of depression'. Inset, Mary Portas
IN NEED OF A BOOST Caroline Dinenage says the High Street is suffering from 'a bout of depression'. Inset, Mary Portas

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GOSPORT High Street should undergo changes proposed by TV retail expert Mary Portas, the town’s MP has urged the government.

Caroline Dinenage said the town centre was currently ‘depressed’ on non-market days.

Mary Portas

Mary Portas

She told a House of Commons debate she wants Gosport to become a pilot for the shopping guru’s ideas.

Mary Portas was brought in by the government to come up with ways on how to help dying high streets.

Ministers are looking at a list of 28 proposals she put forward.

If her ideas are adopted, a number of towns could be given the chance to try out a raft of benefits to encourage new businesses.

Ms Dinenage said: ‘Gosport would make a perfect pilot town for the Mary Portas proposals.

‘It has all the necessary components for a winning town centre – a world-class marina, a spectacular waterfront location, a thriving market and a dogged perseverance which is vital in the current economic climate.

‘The community spirit and character of Gosport is best represented by our bustling market days.

‘Retail shops are busy on market day as well, as it is almost the only time when shoppers are attracted over from Portsmouth.

‘The contrast with normal days on our high street is stark as it is suffering from a severe bout of depression at present.

‘An inactive high street can demoralise a town and ward off potential investors.’

The number of empty units in Gosport’s High Street currently stands at 18, although several new independent shops have sprung up in the town in recent months.

If Gosport was chosen as a pilot town, it could see concessions made on business rates and the freeing-up of planning rules to make it easier for businesses to move in.

Gosport Borough Council could use compulsory purchase order powers to take over vacant shops that fall into a state of disrepair.

And under the plans, the council could encourage the use of pop-up shops and art exhibitions inside empty stores.

The Mary Portas report also supports the idea of a national market day.

Cllr Peter Langdon, of Gosport Borough Council, said plans for major redevelopment of waterfront will boost retail in the long run.

But he is backing Mrs Dinenage’s calls.

Mr Langdon said: ‘The concessions to business rates would be extremely helpful.

‘I would back the calls to have Gosport as a pilot town because every little helps.

‘Gosport has a viable future.’