A DECISIVE action plan has finally been drawn up to turn around the fortunes of a struggling town centre.
Businesses, council leaders and Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery have committed to halt the decline of Waterlooville’s high street and make it the vibrant place it once was.
Dozens of traders, council leader Mike Cheshire and Mr Hollingbery all got round the table at a meeting to thrash out a way forward.
It comes as footfall has plummeted in recent years, while Wellington Retail Park across the busy Maurepas Way road has continued to thrive.
Following the meeting, Havant Borough Council is looking into funding a revised masterplan for the town and get experts in to look at how the high street can be successful in the 21st century.
Council leaders are pinning their hopes on a £1.19m boost that will come from developers of the Waterlooville Major Development Area, where 3,000 homes are being built.
Once the 1,550th dwelling has been built, the cash is set to be used to help link up the estate to the town centre, including possible new pedestrian and cycle links.
Creating a vibrant commercial centre is a focus for politicians as thousands of people will move into the area in the coming decade, including the MDA and large developments at Woodcroft Farm, near Lovedean, and Hazleton Farm, at Horndean.
Sharon Wotherspoon, a local estate agent who is the business representative for the project, said: ‘The fact we are actually working on it is good.
‘Before, things were being left and left. Whereas now people can’t necessarily see the light at the end of the tunnel, but they know there is one.
‘The empty units need to be sorted out. The government and the council need to open up a dialogue with the landlords to try and get these units filled.’
Mrs Wotherspoon said the high street had enough national chains and it was time to get some more interesting and quirky independent traders.
One priority has to be Wellington Way parade, she said. Plans have been mooted about a possible demolition and redevelopment, but this could leave several retailers looking for a new home.
A council report acknowledges the crisis.
It says: ‘The continuing success of the Wellington Retail Park is impacting on the high street town centre.’
However, it says that work to integrate the MDA could be ‘some years away’.
Cllr David Guest, in charge of regeneration in Havant borough, said: ‘Waterlooville is like any other town – it will feel the impact of the internet revolution that will affect the kind of trade opportunities in the high street.’
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN..
* Proposals to reopen London Road to through traffic – Hampshire County Council says it is happy to look at this.
* Council to research the potential use of Compulsory Purchase Orders for Wellington Way.
* Identify ways to link the town centre with the MDA, including a possible underpass.
* Businesses working up proposal to put forward to the council for the first two hours of parking to be free.
* Council officers will seek grant funding for feasibility studies into the development of the town centre and identify modern shopping habits, what will work on the high street, and how to attract major retailers.
* Continue regular meetings with business community.