A MAJOR street festival attracting tens of thousands of people is to be created in a deprived shopping area, The News can reveal.
Plans are being drawn up to close most of Fratton Road for one day later this year so live music and a huge programme of family entertainment can be brought to the street.
It is hoped stages for local bands, children’s games and market stalls can be rolled out at the action-packed event – which would be similar to the once-popular Love Albert Road Day events.
The Southsea spectacle, which was axed in 2010 due to spiralling costs, attracted in the region of 100,000 people.
Businesses have backed the concept and say it is just what is needed to make the area thrive again.
Nick Courtney, chairman of Fratton Road Traders’Association, hopes the festival will bring in economic benefits worth tens of thousands of pounds.
‘The potential is massive – this would regenerate the area and actively help the local economy,’ he said.
‘Events like this have already happened in Castle Road, Palmerston Road and Albert Road. The traders need this massively.
‘If this shows there is so much more to do in Fratton and encourages people to see what the traders do, rather than get back in their car after going to Asda, then it will be worthwhile.’
Debbie Rowling, owner of Redz Hair Salon, in Fratton Road, said: ‘It would be brilliant for the area.
‘Fratton Road needs this big time. A lot of the shops have closed and hopefully it will attract bigger businesses. It’s a deprived area at the moment.’
It comes after Portsmouth City Council agreed in principal to the closure of Fratton Road for the event – which could run from its junction of Arundel Street down to Selbourne Terrace.
Mr Courtney says Fratton Big Local – a community organisation awarded £1m of lottery cash to spend over the next 10 years improving Fratton – would be involved covering costs.
He anticipates costs to the taxpayer would be minimal and hopes many bands would play for free and market stalls would pay for themselves.
A meeting over the plans was held this week.
It was agreed the event would be called ‘Fratton Family Festival’ and be held some time in September and on a Sunday to avoid clashing with other major events.
Lib Dem culture spokesman, Cllr Lee Hunt, said: ‘I really welcome this. We are becoming the focus for events in the south-coast of England.
‘Around 9.4 million visitors come into the city each year and if we can push some of those up to Fratton and boost the shops, that would a very good thing to do.’
Councillor Luke Stubbs, Tory cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, said: ‘If the traders can come up with a viable event and if it can be shown the traffic can be re-diverted so people at the lower part of Fratton can get in and out of their homes, then we would support this. It could make a real difference.’
To read The News’ view on this click here.