PORTSMOUTH could receive a government windfall of thousands of pounds to save shops across the city.
At full council yesterday councillors voted unanimously to put in a bid for the new future high streets fund which amounts to £675m.
If successful the cash would be used to boost existing retail areas in the city such as Commercial Road, Cascades Shopping Centre and Palmerston Road. Public events would also be held to increase footfall.
Tory Cllr Luke Stubbs brought the motion to council and was backed by members from all parties. He said: 'Retail is suffering. Major chains are closing or shrinking. Just within this last month we've had the announcement that the New Look on Commercial Road will close as well as the Homebase at the Ocean Park.
'If you walk around the Cascades you'll find more than a dozen empty stores. We need to do something now and there is an opportunity to access government money.'
The fund comes after it was announced in the autumn Budget retail premises, restaurants and pubs with a rateable value below £51,000 would see a reduction by a third in business rates.
Cllr Stubbs added: 'Where business rates do have an effect is on small traders. And one of the things we want to see change is a greater role for smaller and independent businesses.'
His views were met by Cllr Hugh Mason who championed the work of retailers in Southsea. 'I think we should mention that shops in Southsea are having a really bad time,' he said.
'Members of the Albert Road Traders Association are having great difficulty paying their rents. These are diverse shops, they are small and some are eccentric. What we're seeing is shops becoming service shops like cafes and nail bars .
'If it goes too far it will be difficult for small businesses to start or to grow. I think it might help to offset some of the increase in rents with seeing if we manage to get thousands of pounds from the government.'
The fund cannot be used for retail sites such as Gunwharf Quays or Ocean Retail Park. Councillors also commented that internet shopping had influenced the decline of the high street.