AN AGEING town centre eyesore could be demolished as shop workers and councillors agree ‘something must be done’ to revitalise the space.
The landowner plans to transform the ‘poorly-performing’ Wellington Way centre in Waterlooville into 130 flats and new shops.
Developers will be given the chance to present their proposals to councillors and amenity groups at a Development Consultation Forum led by Havant Borough Council in two weeks.
Westbrook Properties proposes the demolition of existing retail space and construction of 160sqm of new retail space, 100 studio and 30 one-bed rental apartments, plus a lounge, gym and cafe.
Councillor for Waterloo Paul Buckley said the proposals, which also include 95-101A of London Road, are encouraging.
He commented: ‘The centre is in a really sad way, it’s stuck in the 1960s.
‘The reality is shopping habits have changed and more people are buying online, so town centres are losing the energy they had before.
‘The proposals need to address that and I’d like to know more about the plans, it would be good to bring more young people to the area and boost the night-time feel of the centre as well as the day.’
Footfall in the heart of Waterlooville has plummeted in recent years, particularly at Wellington Way, where many units are now empty.
But Wellington Retail Park, which is situated nearby, continues to thrive.
A study published by the council last year described the centre as ‘poorly-performing’.
The report recommended ‘targeted regeneration initiatives within the town centre’, and said ‘a more attractive and successful town centre would be able to effectively capitalise on future opportunities for increased trade from existing and new residents’.
Pat Reed, manager of charity shop Headway at the centre, said: ‘We’ve been here five years and our lease is up this year.
‘In that time I’ve seen so many shops come and go. Something must to be done to revitalise the space, but I don’t like the images I’ve seen of the proposed build.
‘We need more shops here, but the ones that do come don’t survive because the rent is too high. Wellington Way would have had a better chance if the landlords weren’t so greedy.
‘The footfall isn’t here any more, but it’s not so bad down the other end by Wilkinsons and Waitrose.’
Councillor Michael Cheshire, Havant Borough Council’s leader, added: ‘Anything we can do to energise the area and town centre must be welcomed. Wellington Way looks a little tired.’
The Development Consultation Forum about the plans will be held at the Public Service Plaza, in Havant, on May 24.
It’s a public meeting from 6pm-8pm and residents can leave comments on feedback forms at the end of the evening. The town’s Area Community Association, Business Association and Community Forum have been invited to speak.
Andrew Biltcliffe, head of planning at the council, said: ‘Being small, the residential units in these initial proposals are likely to be cheaper than larger units, as homes are priced in terms of the square footage they cover.
‘This is a new type of product for the local housing market and may appeal to younger people or singles looking to downsize.
‘It will be interesting to see how the proposals progress.’