Redevelopment of the Northern Quarter was always going to be crucial if new life was ever to be breathed into Portsmouth’s retail heart.
That’s why the shelving of the £500m project as the recession hit back in 2008 was such a big blow.
So we’re delighted to report today that revised plans for the Northern Quarter are finally back on the table.
Yes, they’ve been scaled down – but developer Centros has confirmed that the new proposals will still include a John Lewis superstore and a Marks and Spencer.
There are also be other new shops and hundreds of homes.
That has to be good news for a city centre that has been hit hard by the attraction of nearby Gunwharf Quays as a rival shopping destination and a drop-off in visitors to Commercial Road of 41 per cent in the past decade.
A new Northern Quarter with big-name stores and a modern image and facilities will go a long way to persuading people to come back.
Just a few weeks ago we said that the Commercial Road area had been left in limbo, with Compulsory Purchase Orders issued on businesses but redevelopment halted.
We urged the city council to respond to the challenge of revitalising Commercial Road and to help traders by doing all it could to make a shopping trip there more enjoyable.
Ken Higson, the owner of Beads Bazaar in nearby Charlotte Street, said then: ‘Something must be done. The council must encourage premium shops to come here, or there’s no way back.’
He was right. Well now it seems that those premium shops, so important to attract people to spend their money, are finally on their way.
Next month the council will decide on crucial legal details of the Centros proposals before a full plan is submitted during the winter.
We believe the city council must do all it can to back Centros and its vision as part of the Shaping the Future of Portsmouth strategy, which includes multi-million pound projects all over the city.