A STONE’S throw away from Portsmouth Harbour, Gosport High Street sits right on the town’s waterfront.
A brisk 10-minute walk will take you from one end of the street to the other, with a market popping up during the week.
Unfortunately, residents believe that the high street sits under the shadow of what Portsmouth has to offer – and will continue to do so for years to come.
Gosport has been largely unaffected by the recent exodus of high street traders, but only because they never set up shop in the first place.
Both shoppers and shopkeepers believe that the high street is lacking the extra pizazz needed to keep people in the town, instead of hopping on a ferry to go to Gunwharf Quays.
Lee Collard, 46, said: ‘There’s no reason to come into Gosport to do shopping because there’s more charity shops than anything else.
‘Some people might like charity shops but it seems to be an over-saturated industry in the high street; the only place I can go to shop is Gunwharf Quays.
‘I go over there for men’s clothing – we’ve got one store here in our high street and that’s it.
‘We’ve not really got any stores for men and the rent in the high street is probably too dear for businesses to want to come in.
‘We just need more stores instead of charity shops, estate agents and card shops – those are just everywhere.
‘If I was in charge I would look at the square footage on council tax and maybe give people lower business rates for the first two years so that firms can build themselves up a bit more and are less likely to leave Gosport in the future.’
Josephine Mahony, 84, said: ‘There’s something like nine coffee shops in the high street – I don’t understand how they can all possibly compete with one another.
‘It would be nice to have a bit more variety around here.
‘There used to be a book shop which was very good and I would like to see a flower shop in the high street too; just anything to replace the onslaught of charity shops.
‘The high street has lost its character.’
Her husband John Mahony said: ‘Having the market here twice a week is very important because it brings people into the town and encourages people to use the shops that are there.
‘Shops have come and gone – I think the council has done what it can to make the place reasonably attractive but quite frankly the business rates make it very difficult for it to survive.
‘The independent shops can’t make it here and even the chains that you find in other high streets have disappeared too.
‘I think it can only be revived if it was cheap for shopkeepers to actually be there.
David Newcombe, 28, said: ‘I only come through the high street after work, but I don’t see a major problem with it.
‘You don’t see loads of empty shops as you walk past, but at the same time there isn’t much to make you stop.
‘It’s just a standard high street, the same as everything else.
‘I don’t think there’s much you really can change about this place.’
The view of the shopkeepers themselves mirrors that of the shoppers.
With seven units in the high street currently available for new traders, they believe that a bit more variety would do the high street a world of good.
Nick Green, from A Little Slice Of Heaven, said: ‘We’ve been here for two years now.
‘It’s important to offer something a little bit different – it makes your shop stand out and also gives people a reason to come to Gosport High Street.
‘In our case, it’s the fact that we’re a retro-style bakery, so we sell old-fashioned treats like eccles cakes and bread pudding.
‘But for the high street in general it’s important to be unique.
‘The market plays a key part in that and so it’s important to support that when it’s here.
‘That being said, a few of the bigger shops like Primark would also be a welcome addition around here – we need to keep the independent traders while also giving people a reason not to go to Portsmouth.
‘It’s a tough balancing act.’
But Ryan Povey, from Reflex Records, says that the continued rise of online shopping could actually benefit the independent stores.
He said: ‘I’ve been working here since February – trade seems to really depend on what day it is.
‘It can be really busy sometimes but at the start of the week it can be pretty quiet.
‘If the market is here then it’s certainly a bit busier though.
‘Most of our business has shifted online now and I think a lot of shops on the high street have had to do the same thing.
‘It’s really just part of how the retailers are evolving and I think that’s just going to continue.’
Charlotte Gane, 31, works in one of the off-licenses in the high street.
She said: ‘I’m here most days during the week – the market is when it’s the busiest but sometimes it also means there’s a lot of rubbish left behind.
‘I can’t say I dislike the high street because there isn’t anything for me to really hate.’
Charlotte added: ‘It would be nice to have more shops and a bigger variety of shops as well.
‘There’s a lot of the same thing here like cafes, food and charity shops.
‘We just need something a bit different to stand out.’
SERVICES ARE KEY TO HIGH STREET FUTURE, SAYS COUNCIL BOSS
THE high street needs to adapt to continue thriving, according to Gosport Borough Council leader Cllr Mark Hook.
He says that high streets must look to provide services rather than relying on retail power – and believes that Gosport is ahead of the curve.
Cllr Hook said: ‘I think we have quite a vibrant high street.
‘We’ve got a lot of traders moving in and if certain plans go ahead
‘But we’ve seen a growing trend towards online shopping in the past few years and I think it’s important that high streets evolve to reflect that.
‘A good high street now offers services rather than just goods – hairdressers, coffee shops and so on are really thriving now and are all getting good trade.
‘Some people say there are too many coffee shops, for instance – but all of them are doing very well because that’s what people want.
‘One thing I must say is that Gosport people have always supported the market and their local shops – and I have no doubt that this will continue.’
But Cllr Hook says that the concerns raised over rents and business rates are out of his hands.
He said: ‘At the moment we can’t do anything about the business rates, because those are set by the Valuation Office Agency.
‘I wish we could set the rates ourselves, but sadly it is out of our hands.
‘What we have to do as a council is make sure the high street is kept in a clean and healthy condition.’