Two cheers for the news that Marks & Spencer is going to set up shop at Havant. And a proper one at that – selling food, clothes and homeware.
Not only is it a feather in Havant’s commercial hat, but it will also neatly fill an M&S gap between Portsmouth and Chichester.
It is expected to create 100 jobs and the announcement could not have come at a more significant moment. Three days ago came news that about 600 SSE jobs at Langstone Technology Park will be shifted to Reading.
Yes, this is a big vote of confidence for Havant which has just won one of the big beasts in the retail jungle.
And we hope its arrival might act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the entire town. But we doubt it.
The problem is the site of the new M&S store – Solent Road.
Great if you are driving there. It’s just off the A27 and parking is bound to be plentiful, just as it is at the Tesco superstore across the way.
But what does it do for the tatty town centre which, in parts, is downright depressing.
How many of those M&S shoppers are likely to walk into the town centre from Solent Road when they’ve bought their shirts and socks to spend more money?
If you have shopped at the M&S along the M27 at Hedge End, how many times have you then continued into Hedge End itself to spend more?
What likelihood is there that the arrival of M&S on the edge of the town will inspire anyone to invest time, money and love regenerating depressing East Street? Very little we would suggest.
Perhaps, combined with the £40m revamp of Market Parade, should it ever happen, things might look up for this once proud town centre. But Marks and Sparks won’t do it.