We cannot allow Knight & Lee’s closure to rip the heart out of Southsea

This morning, discussions have taken place between the Portsmouth MP, Stephen Morgan and the Managing Director’s team at John Lewis and Partners, about the closure of the much-loved Southsea store Knight & Lee.

The action follows constituents raising concerns last night and the city MP writing to the Managing Director, Paula Nickolds late last night.

Despite requests for other options to be considered to keep the store in Portsmouth, Mr. Morgan was informed that nothing could be done to save Knight & Lee because the building had already been sold, and is the only planned store in the company’s estate to shut.

Seeking assurances about local jobs, the Portsmouth MP was informed that 127 partners are currently employed on the site in both a part-time and full-time capacity and attempts would be made to redeploy partners who wish to stay on with the company. The staff at Knight & Lee were informed today at a staff meeting about the stores closure, likely to occur in July 2019.

Last night the Member of Parliament took action, writing to the company saying:

“Knight & Lee is a vital and well-loved asset in my constituency. It employs many hardworking people across the region who have given so much to assist you in building such a reputable brand in my city.

High streets in Portsmouth and indeed across our country are struggling. What is so special about Southsea is its vibrant independent businesses that flourish along Palmerston Road and other local high streets.

John Lewis is much cherished and causes a significant customer footfall which has a beneficial impact on the surrounding businesses and our local economy.”

Following the letter this morning, Stephen Morgan MP has spoken to the city council chief executive and directly to John Lewis’ head office where the decision was confirmed.

Mr. Morgan stated that:

“My number one priority for Portsmouth will always be local jobs and our city’s economy, that’s why it is vital that we keep jobs in Portsmouth and failing that have the opportunity for redeployment elsewhere. I am disappointed by this business decision. The company confirmed they have measures in place to support hardworking staff.“

The MP has added: “Our city’s high streets are struggling. This cannot be another nail in the coffin for Palmerston Road. Knight & Lee has been an anchor store for decades. Bringing people locally and further afield to our area, we musn’t let this business decision rip the heart of Southsea and affect the independent stores and vibrancy Southsea is famous for”.

Last year Mr. Morgan launched a ‘Support Local’ initiative to shine a spotlight on the city’s small businesses and to encourage local trading and shopping. Research tells us that for every £1 spent in the local economy, 63p is reinvested in the community.

Mr. Morgan was informed that Knight & Lee site has already been sold to a developer that has an interest in hotel, office and leisure facilities. He has requested further information about the development to seek clarity on their proposals.

“I have requested information about the new owners of the site and will be contacting them to make sure they take on board the community views. Its important they hear from the people of Portsmouth our strength of feeling about the decline of our high streets following today’s devastating news for Southsea”.