North End traders’ fury after being snubbed by Portsmouth City Council’s £50m bid to revamp high streets
DISHEARTENED traders in the north of Portsmouth say they are being hung out to dry after they were ignored in a multimillion-pound bid to revamp high streets.
Independent firms in North End have accused Portsmouth City Council of abandoning them as businesses in the shopping precinct said they were facing their ‘worst time in 20 years’.
It comes after the council launched a bid to secure a government pot of cash worth £50m, which would be pumped into improving Commercial Road and Fratton Road.
The money would come from the Future High Street Fund, which saw £675m allocated to shopping districts nationwide in the autumn Budget last year, and would see £25m go to each area.
Cash from successful bids could be spent on improving public transport to and from the areas, hosting events like markets and creating new public spaces.
However, traders in North End are adamant the money would have had a greater impact on footfall there than in other parts of the city.
And Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, agrees and has now gone to war with the Lib Dem administration, demanding more effort is made to improve things in the north.
Lee Patman, owner of Goodwins Photo and Framing, said businesses had been struggling to survive since a parking shake-up by the council several years ago, which drove away customers.
He said: ‘That killed North End. Ever since business has been horrendous, it’s the worst it’s been in 20 years. It’s constantly on a downturn.
‘Everyone is suffering round here. Business is down for everyone.’
He added: ‘The council’s actions don’t surprise me at all.’
Glenn Gould runs Goulds Jewellers, which has been in North End for 35 years, and was frustrated council’s decision.
He said: ‘I’m not happy. We should get our fair share as well. Businesses in North End could really do with some of that money. We’re suffering like everybody else.’
The council has said Commercial Road and Fratton Road were the best options to secure the money and that it would continue to support trade in the north of the city.
The lack of investment in North End has now left some traders considering their future.
Simon Bratey, owner of Pet Price, has been in the precinct for seven years and said: ‘Our businesses is steady now but it’s always difficult. We have to look at whether it’s worth being here. In a few years it might not be worth staying. We don’t know.’
Ms Mordaunt said she would always support money coming into the city and would do her best to secure the cash for Commercial Road and Fratton Road.
But the Tory heavyweight was ‘disappointed’ the council had not looked at a ‘city-wide approach’ which she insisted was ‘needed’ if the authority was ‘serious’ about regenerating Portsmouth.
‘I think it is a poor decision,’ she said, adding the fund was ‘ideally suited’ to supporting ‘secondary shopping areas’ like North End but that the council had instead ‘focused’ on other parts which needed a ‘massive change’ from retail to ‘more leisure and residential’.
She added: ‘Despite being hampered by business rates and parking woes North End has continued to keep going. A small amount of funding for North End would go a long way.’
Councillor Ben Dowling, the city’s regeneration boss, said the government rules meant the city could only bid for two areas and that Commercial Road and Fratton Road were Portsmouth’s best hopes.
‘It was a completely objective process,’ he said. ‘We’re trying to pick the best two candidates to secure Portsmouth this multimillion-pound funding.
‘We continue to support local trading associations particularly in Cosham. We have seen things get better over the last couple of years, with the market getting more and more popular.
‘There’s of course more we could do. But people shop differently to how they used to shop five years ago or 20 years ago.’
Ms Mordaunt has since written to the council urging for more money for the north of the city.