Why a work/leisure hub is the best use for Southsea's Knight & Lee store | The News

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When Knight & Lee closed its doors in July, there is no doubt it was a big blow to Southsea.

The much-loved department store had been there for generations and for many it was the cornerstone of the Palmerston Road shopping centre, attracting people who would then spend time and money with other retailers.

Knight & Lee at Palmerston Rd, Portsmouth, Southsea pictured in January 2019. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Knight & Lee at Palmerston Rd, Portsmouth, Southsea pictured in January 2019. Picture: Habibur Rahman

After the shock had subsided, thoughts turned to what would happen to the building, which occupies such a prominent corner site.

READ MORE: Fate of Southsea’s former Knight & Lee store to be decided next week

The harsh reality was that it would never be a big store again. Its time had passed and new uses had to be found for this familiar part of the local landscape.

Now councillors are set to debate plans that could see the empty building converted into a multi-million pound development incorporating cinema screens, a coffee bar, shops and 43-bed hotel. It would also include shared offices, a rooftop bar and terrace and rooms for events.

This mixed-use approach that retains a lot of the architectural features is definitely the way to go and the plans would see improved amenities for local residents, plus extra accommodation for visitors that would enhance Southsea's offering as a tourism destination.

The only issue seems to be parking, or the lack of it, for hotel guests. While some say the KC West area is already short of residents' spaces, a highways engineer's report has ruled there would be 'adequate on-street parking opportunities' within a reasonable walking distance. 

Of course, in an ideal world the hotel would have a car park. But there is no room, so that is not an option.