ALMOST 200 people have called on Fareham Borough Council to prevent Portchester’s centre from dying.
Charlene Worsfold, who runs an online wedding dress business and lives in Castle Street, handed in a petition to planning bosses last night.
We really need to do something to bring the heart and soul into the communityCharlene Worsfold, trader
It urged the council to rejuvenate the centre and came amid fears over the impact a future Lidl store could have on village trade once it’s built.
A total of 187 people have backed Charlene’s campaign, which appeals for the council to use some of the £115,000 from a planning deal with the discount retailer to improve the ageing precinct.
The 30-year-old mum of two – who has ambitions of opening her first shop in the village centre – said: ‘Portchester is dying a death.
‘It’s so bare and quiet we really need to do something to bring the heart and soul into the community.’
It’s hoped the cash will be used to pay for improved street furniture and paving.
Charlene said this would entice a greater variety of businesses into the centre, boosting the area’s prospects.
‘We want to bring in the historic feel of Castle Street and bring that to the precinct,’ she added.
Councillor Nick Walker was in favour of the petition.
He said something needed to be done to boost the whole area and explained a number of options were on the table.
‘The precinct is starting to look run-down,’ he said.
‘We do have a huge number of charity shops there at the moment – five in total.
‘Some traders have told me they’re struggling, so we need to do something.’
He added fears were mounting over the impact Lidl will have on footfall in the precinct when it opens at the end of the year, and the knock-on effect it could have on other nearby shops.
Likewise, he said the situation was complicated by the number of ‘absentee landlords’ and the overall change in shopping habits.
‘The problem is that the shops left are branded stores – local shops are disappearing. So we end up with nail bars and charity shops,’ he said.
The petition was handed into the borough council’s planning and development review panel.
Councillor Arthur Mandry, the panel’s chairman, said a series of working groups would be looking into the regeneration of Portchester.
The first meeting of this team will be on March 21.
However, councillor Roger Price raised his concerns over this plan.
He pointed out the group was scheduled to make a decision on consultation in June or July – with an agreement on action set for September.
‘This time-span will make it impossible for a meaningful and proper consultation to take place,’ he told The News.
‘I’d rather wait six months and have a full consultation to find out exactly what the residents want than rush one through that no-one likes.’