LONG-held plans to regenerate a run-down Portsmouth shopping district are finally moving forward.
Portsmouth City Council has spent around £400,000 widening pavements and improving pedestrian crossings in London Road, North End.
Their aim is to make the road safer and more attractive to shoppers in the hope of revitalising the area and boosting local businesses.
Council officers believe London Road’s traders have suffered in recent years because of the area’s heavy traffic and narrow pavements.
The plan is based on ideas that have come up at public meetings and a steering group with local resident and business representatives.
A section of the road’s bus lane and parking spaces have been removed to enable the pavements to be widened and the directions to nearby car parks have also been improved.
Lib Dem councillor Leo Madden said he has been working on the project ever since he was an independent councillor four years ago.
‘I was taken for a walk around the area by someone who pointed out to me all the things that needed doing,’ he said.
‘I live in the area and sometimes you just get used to it and it takes someone to say something before you realise. So I put in for a grant from the government for £400,000 for work to be done.
‘We started up a working group with local residents, business owners, councillors and officers.’
He added that the work, which began in February and is due to run until the end of April, was due to start last year but was put back because of other projects such as the improvement to the junction of Copnor Road and Burrfields Road.
He said: ‘What I hope is that people who just come through North End will stop and enjoy the experience.
‘We want good quality shops coming to the area.
‘The whole point was a lot of residents use the shops and we wanted to give them a great experience.
‘We want to bring to bring it back to life, we want people to be proud of the area.
‘So far everybody has been very positive.’
Barry Walker, the head of the town centre management team, said: ‘The problem with North End as a shopping area was that the pavements were narrow.
‘So we took the parking spaces and relocated them and widened the pavements so pedestrian movements are easier and it is a decent place to shop.
‘Shops go to places where there are customers. It doesn’t happen over night but all the improvement will hopefully mean more people end up wanting to shop in North End.’
Luke Stubbs, Conservative spokesman for traffic and transport, said it was about time the area was regenerated.
‘I think it is much more about regeneration than just transport,’ he said.
‘This will help the area and I don’t think the loss of the bus lane is particularly important.
‘It is good for the area and although there is always more that can be done it’s just a question of money.’