Traders warn plans to hike city centre parking charges in Portsmouth could ‘crucify’ the high street

Councillors Dave Ashmore and Lynne Stagg at the launch of Portsmouth City Council's anti-idling campaign to encourage drivers to turn off their engines while at red lights. Picture: Sarah Standing (310119-7931)
Councillors Dave Ashmore and Lynne Stagg at the launch of Portsmouth City Council's anti-idling campaign to encourage drivers to turn off their engines while at red lights. Picture: Sarah Standing (310119-7931)
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RETAILERS have warned new plans to dissuade drivers from using their cars in the city could 'crucify' struggling shops.

Drivers are set to be spared a congestion charge-style fee for driving on Portsea Island in a clean air zone first proposed to cut air pollution in Portsmouth.

The council is instead calling for only lorries, taxis, coaches and buses that do not reach a certain standard to be charged a daily rate of up to £20.

However, drivers could face higher city centre parking charges in a bid to persuade them not to use their personal vehicles - in a move branded as 'disastrous' by retailers who say it would 'crucify' Commercial Road.

G&S Jewellers, in Charlotte Street, is one of the city centre’s oldest family-run independent businesses and has been trading for more than 35 years.

Graham Shilcock, owner of the store, said: 'This will be disastrous for the city - it's just another kick in the teeth for Portsmouth retailers.

'The town's trade has been injured for a long time now we want to kill it off. This will just drive people out of Portsmouth.'

Maxine Grantham, who has worked at G&S Jewellers for 23 years, added:  'This will crucify Commercial Road. This will make things harder for everyone.’

Portsmouth City Council was previously warned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that unless it could show it could get air pollution in the city to a 'safe' level a blanket chargeable zone would be imposed on the city.

But the council's environment cabinet member, Councillor Dave Ashmore, said 'radical measures' have to be introduced.

He said: 'It is something that's got to be looked at. We have to sympathise with the local businesses but sometimes we require radical measures.'

He added: 'We had to work within the government's constraints to show we could create a continuous improvement but we also had to be aware of the needs of the residents and the local businesses and the impact on the economy.'

Only non-compliant vehicles would be charged within the zone - petrol vehicles registered prior to 2006 and diesel cars from before 2015.

But self-employed taxi driver Matt Cane, who is based in Havant, said: 'It's another nail in the coffin for taxi drivers.

'If a passenger wanted to go from Havant train station into Portsmouth that would be about £18. Then if the clean air zone charge is up to £20 I wouldn't bother with the journey.'

Chris Hardy, the managing director for National Express UK Coach, added: 'National Express welcomes the proposals to introduce a clean air zone in Portsmouth as a significant opportunity to improve air quality and also recognises the urgency in delivering these improvements.

'However, we believe that, in order to be effective, the clean air zone should be introduced alongside more explicit measures to tackle congestion and support modal shift to public transport. In our view, class D clean air zone, which include private car, would be more effective in addressing air pollution and its causes.'

A report on the clean air zone will be heard at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Concerned retailers feared for the impact on the high street

TRADER Melanie Smith, owner of the Marabellas Boutique, in Cascades, has customers travel from across the south - with one shopper in Dubai making regular pit stops to the store to purchase designer boys’ clothing.

The businesswoman feared plans to alter the city’s parking provision could have a devastating impact on trade.

‘Businesses are going under every day but it just seems like the council is trying to make it harder for independent stores,’ she said.

‘The “big boys” of the high street, like John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, are going - it’s only us little businesses left.

‘If they get rid of us there won’t be any high street for people. This will crucify us.’

In a direct appeal to the council, she added: ‘Don’t take our independence from us. There’s only so much we can take.’

Shaun Ijaz owns the Port Maid clothes store, which has been in Arundel Street, off Commercial Road, since the late 1970s.

He said all businesses were ‘struggling’ and feared a new congestion charge being introduced into the city could deepen Portsmouth’s trade crisis.

‘I get why they’re doing it,’ he added. ‘But you need to have better public transport alongside this.

‘We have got the park and ride but that’s a joke. Introducing a charge to get into the city will only make business harder.’