IN its ’60s and ’70s heyday it was a bustling centre of second hand and collectables shops compared to London’s Portobello Road.

Today around half the premises in Old Northam Road in Southampton stand empty and have been caught in a spiral of neglect over the past decade or so, despite attempts to restore some of the shops.

Now the developer which owns most of the street has been granted £138,000 by the council to help spruce up the rundown shopping parade and kick start its £1.4m revival as an antiques quarter. And it also has a longer term plan to build the largest auction house and antique centre in the south of England.

Labour council leaders agreed to hand the money, left over from regional regeneration funding, to Grays Developments to refurbish 13 dilapidated Victorian terraced properties in Old Northam Road over the next year.

Grays said it planned to restore all of the derelict properties in the road, including 15 Victorian shops, and refurbishing eight other shop units, to create an antiques and collectables themed shopping destination, bringing 20 jobs.

Surviving traders, residents, councillors and Itchen MP John Denham, have been campaigning for years for a revival of the road’s fortunes.

In the early 2000s, nearly £2m from a Government re-generation fund, was spent on the road, |||but while a row of shops was immaculately restored, the site of a planned antiques centre remains boarded up.

Grays has promised to invest millions restoring the swathe of properties it has bought up. It said they would otherwise have been lost to demolition.

But traders have remained sceptical of the vision until they see work starting on the ground.

New council leader Richard Williams said: “Let’s hope we can get moving now we’ve taken this big step forward.”

Grays, which owns 30 commercial properties and 68 homes within Old Northam Road, has worked with the council to come up with a programme of works starting next month until June next year.

Grays estate manager Ian Bennett said he was delighted the council had agreed to the funding.

“Old Northam Road was always a recognised destination for dealers and collectors alike and we are now certain that it will be returned to its former glory to rival the Lane in Brighton and once again be established as a national destination.”

He said Grays had concerns over proposals by the council to diminish the protection afforded to ground floor shop units in the area, but been assured with the decision to support the restoration works that the current protection will remain.

He added: “On completion of the restoration works to the shops we will be establishing one of the largest auction houses and antique centres in the south of England.”

He said in due course the area would be marketed nationally but would be offering “favourable rates and flexible terms” to local businesses and enthusiast interested in being part of the vision.

The council grant, from the abolished regional development agency Seeda, was originally allocated for work to tackle eyesores, promote healthy living, and develop key sites. The money will be handed over once the renovation works are completed in four phases.

• Contact or call 023 8063 065 for more information.