2009 had started with the closure of the Woolworth store in the Leigh Road precinct. Exactly 12 months later the large store space remains boarded up and unlet – but now joined by more vacant shop and pub premises.
Indeed, the only thriving businesses in the once prime location appear to be bookmakers, charity shops and pawnbrokers.
In addition to empty shop units, the Town Centre also boasts acres of undeveloped land. Leigh Road’s ‘Centris’, ‘Riverside’ and ‘Middle Earth sites were earmarked for business development and a potential 9,000 local jobs – but remain barren wasteland.
In May the local Swaythling Ford plant laid off 540 workers, 150 of them from Eastleigh.
This year also saw volunteer ‘Street pastors’ from the local Baptist church take to the streets to help shepherd the weekly influx of Friday night revellers
The Towns former ‘Martines’ nightclub reopened after many years as ‘Flava’ and the extension to the Swan Centre was finally completed – although it added a bowling alley, 9 screen cinema and 2 extra restaurants the promised additional retail units have yet to materialise.
As most of Eastleigh’s residents tightened their belts to grapple with the recession, the Council pressed ahead with the annual Music Festival – and sold only 730 tickets. They also completed the £2.4 million extension to the loss making ‘Point’ Arts centre in the former Town Hall.
Meanwhile town centre residents continued to put up with fortnightly bin collections and rubbish in the streets as it was announced that the Council was borrowing £32 million to finance the building of a new hotel…
2010 will see a General Election where our MP Chris Huhne and the Lib Dems defend a wafer thin 500 vote majority.
At the same time there will be local elections.
In a recent Poll on this website (regarding the increase in residents parking charges) 50% of respondents said they would never vote Lib Dem again.
Whatever the New Year may bring to our local economy, 2010 will be a very interesting indeed.
Happy New Year!!
What were your highlights of 2009? Share them with us!