THE man in charge of regeneration in Portsmouth insists its shopping centres are on the up despite concerns over their future.
Councillor Luke Stubbs revealed at yesterday’s cabinet debate he finds it ‘disappointing’ that people talk of the decline in shopping in the city as he believes things are improving.
We don’t have a lot of empty shops in Portsmouth, things are getting better.Councillor Luke Stubbs, Tory cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development
It comes despite the news of more shop closures in areas such as North End – with Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt calling on the local authority and businesses to spend cash getting people back into shops.
Tory council leader Donna Jones feels Portsmouth’s high streets are in decline, like many others in the UK.
But fellow Tory Cllr Stubbs said: ‘The percentage of empty shops in North End is still only five per cent.
‘I find it disappointing when we overhear sometimes about how our centres are dying and more needs to be done to support them.
‘Our centres are not dying – they are doing well, and that’s something we should celebrate.
‘We don’t have a lot of empty shops in Portsmouth, things are getting better.’
It was revealed the department for communities and local government believes Fratton Road and Kingston Road are better than many other high streets in the UK.
But there are concerns around Allaway Avenue in Paulsgrove.
Ukip councillor Julie Swan led a review into the future of the city’s high streets.
She said the council cannot adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach – and welcomed the fact the Boots store in North End is interested in forming a traders’ association.
Lib Dem Matthew Winnington said cycling facilities need to be improved such as extra bike storage.
Director of transport Alan Cufley pledged the authority will seek to bid for funding for new projects and welcomed the extension of trader groups.
Cllr Jones said it was important high street businesses led improvements rather than the council as they know what’s needed.
She also admitted funds were tight – though the council has set some money aside in an attempt to improve Fratton and North End.
Cllr Jones said: ‘This is an item close to our heart.
‘There is a depression of high streets across the UK and Portsmouth is no exception to that.’
Last year, the Tory administration revealed plans to transform the former site of the Tricorn centre into a £300m shopping centre, known as the Northern Quarter, had been scrapped.
The decision taken by developer Centros was due to ‘changes in the retail market’.
*Do you agree or disagree with Cllr Stubbs? Please comment on this story