Andrew Mair

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PEOPLE in Lee-on-the-Solent have expressed their anger after an appeal was launched against rejected plans to turn two former shops into flats.

More than 100 people objected to the plans to put two two-bedroom apartments in a building in Portsmouth Road.

And councillors at Gosport Borough Council’s planning board refused permission.

But now the firm behind the plans, PMC Construction, has appealed to the government against the decision.

People had raised concerns about the lack of shops, which they felt could make the parade unviable and threaten the future of the neighbourhood centre.

Andrew Mair, 55, of Portsmouth Road, is interested in turning the building into a convenience store.

He said: ‘The local community desperately wants the shops to reopen.

‘There is a real need at this end of Lee.

‘I remain willing to invest in opening a local convenience store for the good of the local community and as a business venture.

‘I have put quite some time and effort into establishing the feasibility, but am very frustrated at the way things are going.

‘It’s massively important. It was the heart of that area in Lee. People would look out for each other.

‘I’m frustrated. There’s no way that the community wants these shops turned into flats.’

The building is part of a small shopping parade in the town.

The vacant shops used to house a post office and general store and a pet shop.

The council received 74 letters of objection and a petition full of additional signatures.

Planning officers recommended that the application was turned down because the loss of retail space would harm other shops in the area.

They also said it would reduce services for people living nearby.

Shirley Knowles, owner of Top Knot Hair Salon in Portsmouth Road, said: ‘We want the shops because it’s an elderly population at this end.

‘We need local shops. Andrew is prepared to open one which is wonderful but nobody will deal with him.

‘It will be a lifeline for a lot of elderly people here.

‘It’s on a go-through road and there’s parking outside.

‘It will keep the whole shopping parade alive.

‘We need to keep it going as shops.’