We’re lagging behind and badly need a strategy

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It was billed as a modern shopping complex that would have people flocking into Portsmouth city centre to spend their money.

But the Northern Quarter development never made it off the drawing board. And years later all those artists’ impressions are still nowhere near becoming bricks and mortar.

Developer Centros has pulled the plug on the £300m project to transform the site of the long-demolished Tricon centre. And today we reveal how it is to remain as a car park for another five years after a new deal was signed with leaseholder NCP.

So where does that leave Portsmouth in the race to attract visitor spend? Lagging behind is the sad truth.

The success of Gunwharf Quays only serves to highlight the need to improve what we have to offer in the city centre, or get left behind by other shopping draws such as Southampton, Winchester, Guildford and Chichester.

With new housing developments springing up in this part of the south to meet government targets – the 6,000-home new town of Welborne north of Fareham has now been approved by councillors – Portsmouth has got to be more proactive to encourage the people who will live in these homes to regard the city as their shopping destination of choice.

We agree with campaigners who say the city council, retailers and developers need to work together and come up with a strategy. At the heart of it needs to be a revival of those Northern Quarter plans, even if they are watered down from the original grand vision.

We cannot simply stand still and lose out to other towns and cities who have moved with the times and offer a more enticing mix of big name chains and smaller, independent traders.

With park and ride now in place, the city centre should be more accessible. But what greets people when they get there has to be improved.

Tory planning and regeneration boss Cllr Luke Stubbs talks of £500,000 being set aside to improve the city centre. But it’s going to take an awful lot more than that to make the changes that are needed.