Disappointment as government rejects Portsmouth's £50m bid for vital high street funding boost

AMBITIONS to transform two struggling high streets have been dealt a crippling blow after a council’s £50m cash plea was snubbed.

Commercial Road, Portsmouth, on a very wet and rather quiet Wednesday in mid-October 2018  
Picture by:  Malcolm Wells (181017-6187)
Commercial Road, Portsmouth, on a very wet and rather quiet Wednesday in mid-October 2018 Picture by: Malcolm Wells (181017-6187)

Portsmouth City Council has failed to make the grade in its bid for a slice of a £675m scheme set up by the government.

Known as the Future High Streets Fund, the cash was designed to help councils improve shopping districts across the nation.

City leaders had hoped to scoop millions, which could then be spent on developing Commercial Road and Fratton Road.

But now the council has been forced to go back to the drawing board after its application failed to make the shortlist of 50 proposals.

Tory Councillor Luke Stubbs said this was devastating news for Portsmouth.

The former deputy leader of the council said: ‘This is a real blow for the city. The Commercial Road area in particular needed something to give people hope for its future.’

But city regeneration chief, Councillor Ben Dowling insisted all was not lost.

‘This is disappointing news for the city but this isn’t the end for Portsmouth’s high streets,’ he added. ‘We will put all our time and effort into finding new ways to support the city.’

The blow comes after Southsea’s Knight & Lee closed its doors for good over the weekend.

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP and city Labour leader, said both the government and council needed to ‘do more’.

He added: ‘We need a bold and ambitious plan to revitalise our city’s shopping centres, which is why Portsmouth Labour submitted positive budget proposals to get to the heart of the problem.

‘Sadly the Tories and Lib Dems voted it down, and continue to neglect our communities.’

However, deputy leader Councillor Steve Pitt – who heads up culture and city development – said the authority remained ‘committed’ to improving ‘several aspects of Commercial Road’.

‘Although we were unsuccessful on this occasion, we remain optimistic and excited about future projects,’ he said. ‘Our submissions were put forward in the official format of an 'expression of interest' only.

‘However, we are now in an improved position with regards to our proposal and this should give us a better opportunity at the second phase.’