City centre trader’s snag needs to be resolved

Ewan McGregor  as Renton in Trainspotting - the gender neutral toilets Zella has visited are almost as grubby

ZELLA COMPTON: Men – just aim it in the right direction and we’ll all be happy!

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It is good to see that action is likely to be taken after a Portsmouth City Council cafe boss complained that a new road gate was driving away some of his custom.

Philip Allison, manager of Fagins in Charlotte Street, reckons he has lost thousands of pounds since the gate replaced bollards where the traditional market street meets Commercial Road.

The effect was that many people in the main shopping area apparently thought that Charlotte Street had been blocked off to the public.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course – the barrier was simply there to prevent vehicles being driven into the shopping precinct.

The previous bollards had been deemed no good because the plates that fixed them in place were being repeatedly damaged.

We agree with Mr Allison’s complaint that traders were not consulted about the decision to erect a gate, but we do acknowledge that city centre manager Barry Walker has been swift to address the issue.

He says consideration will be given to reintroducing bollards, hopefully with sturdier protection.

A simple gate might not seem a major issue, but it was to Mr Allison and it’s good that his voice has been heard. Let us hope it is acted upon.

On the broader front, of course, the need to attract more people to the entire shopping centre and not just Charlotte Street remains a huge target for the city centre.

As we said last month when revealing that a new version of the postponed Northern Quarter redevelopment looks on the cards, Portsmouth desperately needs a dynamic reinvention of its central shopping centre, which has experienced a huge drop-off in visitors over the past decade.

In a way, the success of Gunwharf Quays, the economic recession, and the abandonment of the huge redevelopment of Commercial Road put a figurative ‘gate’ around the area in the minds of thousands of people who simply took their custom elsewhere.

On all fronts the challenge remains to find ways in which people can be persuaded to return to the city centre to spend their hard-earned cash.