Portsmouth edge closer to high streets’ fund boost

A multi-million pound transformation of two Portsmouth high streets has taken a step forward as Portsmouth City Council has submitted a bid for £10.5m government funding.

The bid has been submitted to the Future High Streets Fund with £4.9m earmarked to improve Commercial Road and £5.6m for Fratton Road. Plans include changing property use, improving public spaces and making it easier for new businesses to open.

Traders from each high street have been involved in developing proposals with ideas for Fratton Road including food markets, street festivals and music events while plans for Commercial Road focus on transforming space within buildings to create co-working areas businesses can share and greater community engagement around future regeneration.

Cllr Steve Pitt, the council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Economic Development said, “Revamping two of our major high streets is much needed and more relevant than ever in the current climate. We want to make better use of properties and public spaces to make them more engaging, vibrant and sustainable. We want our high streets to be places that people want to visit, use and enjoy and not just visit when they need to.

“We know all high streets have been facing real challenges and we are committed to working with traders across the city. The government criteria for this funding focuses on areas with shop vacancies, low footfall and poor air quality meaning Commercial Road and Fratton Road are most likely to succeed in their bids and we’ve shaped the plans and funding requests to give us the best chance of securing money to make improvements. Thanks to the support and conversations we have had with those high street traders, we are tackling these challenges head on and success would not only benefit these areas but the city as a whole.”

Sites have also been identified on Fratton Road for residential development with a view to provide affordable housing.

The funding bid is the latest step in the council’s work to support local high streets and follows recent news of the City Centre Market being repositioned along Commercial Road; a scheme designed to improve the market’s exposure and experience for customers.

Portsmouth is one of only four councils in the UK to have more than one bid progressing with government’s Future High Streets Fund. Councils were able to bid for up to £25m support, with most bids expected to be worth between £5m and £10m. The two Portsmouth bids have been shaped around the government funding criteria, available property to purchase and specific needs of the areas and to give the best opportunity of securing the money to revitalise the high streets.

Fratton Road and Commercial Road were chosen because out of all of the shopping districts in the city they are facing the biggest challenges in the areas government wants to address, including the highest percentage of empty shops and both sitting in air quality management areas.

A decision from government is expected later this year, along with a second round of funding opportunities which could allow the council to look at further bids for high streets.

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