Portsmouth high streets hope to see new life with multimillion-pound boost
TWO high streets in Portsmouth could be 'saved' with up to £50m of government funding.
The council is preparing to submit bids for the Future High Street Fund that saw £675m allocated to shopping districts nationwide in the autumn Budget last year.
If successful both Commercial Road and Fratton Road in the city would benefit from £25m each that could be spent on public transport to and from the areas, hosting events such as markets, filling vacant shops and encouraging business diversification.
The rules of the funding stipulate that only two locations can be put forward at one time. Commercial Road and Fratton Road were chosen because of their high percentages of empty shops and poor air quality.
For the council's head of regeneration, Councillor Ben Dowling, it was an exciting opportunity. 'I'm delighted we are preparing bids for both of these high streets,' he said.
'The high street in Fratton plays a key role for people in that area and improvements could really benefit the entire community while funding for Commercial Road can play a key role in our ongoing plans to rejuvenate the city's main shopping centre.'
It comes after recent shock closure announcements for beloved Portsmouth shops including Knight and Lee in Palmerston Road and U Need Us in Arundel Street.
Tory Councillor Luke Stubbs originally brought the notice of motion to bid for the high street fund at full council in November last year. He felt the cash would benefit retail in the city as long as local land owners and shop owners were consulted.
He said: 'Any successful bid is going to need to be made in connection with land owners and shop owners so as long as that is done properly.
'The important thing is it is just impossible for a local authority to save the high street on its own. They need to work collectively with people who know the high streets best.
'I do think that something like a market in Commercial Road would increase footfall but I'm not sure about how Fratton Road should be handled. It's a busy road for cars.
'One thing is sure and that is that Portsmouth high streets need to have a mix of businesses that you couldn't find anywhere else. That is the only way that high streets will survive in the future.'
The council has started talking to businesses and community stakeholders to see what ideas they have. Bids for other areas in the city such as Southsea are planned for future rounds of the fund.
The cash cannot be used for retail sites such as Gunwharf Quays or Ocean Retail Park.
Last year The News launched the Love Your High Street campaign to shine a light on local high streets that have more individuality than chain stores, and also help to provide local jobs and prosperity.