Could money have been saved through consultation?

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Half-a-million pounds is a lot of money in most people’s books.

But that is how much has been spent so far on introducing a pedestrianised zone in Southsea which could now be scrapped.

From the day it was first mooted, the plans for the southern end of Palmerston Road drew criticism.

The council claimed it would help introduce a ‘cafe culture’, but critics said it would make the area more like Guildhall Walk and encourage drinking.

And businesses said it would harm their trade.

This latter point certainly seems to have been borne out, as there have been several shops telling how passing trade has dropped off and takings have been way down since the scheme was introduced.

The Southsea Association also weighed in, concerned about confusing traffic signs – although cars were not allowed down there, buses continued to be allowed to use the road.

A survey conducted by The News revealed that 24 out of 31 firms wanted to see the scheme rescinded – some even talked of making legal challenges against the council.

A constant refrain since it began in spring 2012 has been how the initial scheme was not thought through before it was put in place.

The revised scheme will allow vehicles to enter one way, from the south, and then to turn left into Osborne Road.

That so much money has been wasted on a scheme that may never have seen the light of day if a proper consultation had been carried out, particularly when we still hear about how tight money is, is sickening.

It is unsurprising to see that Lib Dem ward councillor Hugh Mason is standing by the original decision, and believes that scrapping it would be a bad move – it was, after all, his party’s administration that implemented the scheme in the first place.

It will certainly be interesting though, 12 months down the line, to see the results of this consultation.

In the meantime, let’s just hope that this helps all those businesses that have witnessed a decline in trade.

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