DRASTIC action must be taken now to save North End or all of its shops will vanish by the end of the decade.
That’s the warning from traders who fear the Portsmouth shopping area faces a huge crisis and desperately needs help from the city council and property landlords before it’s too late.
Shop owners say trade has plummeted since parking bays were ripped out in favour of widened pavements and a growing number of derelict shops are deterring visitors.
Big businesses like McDonald’s, HSBC, NatWest and KFC have all left and the prominent Co-op store is on its way out.
And start-up firms are struggling to pull in shoppers.
Simon Bratby, owner of Pet Price in London Road, said the situation is bleak and he is considering his future.
I can see five shops in front of mine that have gone in the last six months.Diane Yap, manager of De Garden chinese restaurant, in London Road, North End
He said: ‘It’s a serious situation. Within the next five years, most of North End will be shut down unless something is urgently done.
‘The parking bays need to be brought back and help given to the landlords, by giving them interest-free loans. That would encourage them to repair and refurbish the shops.
‘Our shop is in a poor condition. I have managed to persuade the landlord to repair the front before it falls down and kills someone. But landlords don’t want to invest because tenants don’t want to take properties up – it’s a vicious circle.
He added: ‘I can see five shops in front of mine that have gone in the last six months. There are new people coming into the area, they last six months and then they are gone again.’
In a fresh plea for support, shop owners are to sign a letter by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt to the council that urges officials to make funds available for improvements that will encourage the public back.
Dianne Yap, manager of De Garden Chinese restaurant, said: ‘It’s very worrying now because many shops are closing down. It’s like a dead city.
‘On a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a high street should be very busy, and yet it’s not like that here at all. There are a lot of people on the road, yet they are travelling down to the town and not stopping in North End.
‘We’re a new business here, and it’s very tough.’
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘It’s vitally important the council acts.
‘I have already said how local shops and high streets are a lifeline to the elderly and vulnerable.
‘It’s also about what that area could be. There is tremendous community support there.’