In the last few weeks and months, we have all been reminded of the value of certain support and services. From the NHS, to care and community support services. The amazing voluntary sector and all those working in vital jobs, from cleaning the streets to stacking supermarket shelves, too.
Local shops, especially in the early part of the crisis, provided an absolute lifeline for so many. They stayed open, they adapted their stock quickly to meet changing needs. Outside of the COVID crisis they were already a lifeline for many for whom a supermarket trip or ordering online was not an option. The secondary shopping centres across our city are more than just providing a service. They are integral to a good quality of life. They provide a community hub, social contact, a network of support and a backdrop to support community events.
Over the years local retailers have had much to contend with: from online competition to unhelpful parking schemes. Thanks to the hard work of local traders many areas have improved, Cosham being one such example, or developed a real sense of community, such as Baffins has done. However, there is still a long way to go for all these areas to reach their potential.
No more so than North End. I am pleased that the Local Enterprise Partnership will be producing a prospectus for North End, to help foster the joined-up approach needed to improve its buildings, attract interesting new traders and support existing ones. Sadly, the City Council has not included North End or other secondary shopping centres in its High Street fund bid, but they could do in round two later this year, and I hope they do.
In the coming weeks I will be surveying businesses and residents in North End, and retailers in other shopping centres across the north of the city, to ask again for their ideas and input about how we can improve both trade but also quality of life in these areas.
North End is key. If we regenerate the look and feel of the area, bring dilapidated buildings back to useful purpose, foster a greater diversity of shops and maximise the heritage and sense of place the area has, it will have hugely positive knock-on effects for the surrounding residents.
Together with other prime sites- such as the Hilsea Lido and Tipner- the North’s regeneration is a massive opportunity we should not miss.
I always support regeneration bids and schemes in the south of the city as we are one city and such schemes are of to all. But the reverse is true too. If the council would focus more on the North of the City the benefits would be immense for the whole city. I will continue to encourage them to do so and recognise the opportunity and potential, as yet unrealised. North End would be a good start.