OVER the years the city has seen the failure or decline of shopping, leisure and restaurants in the city centre: Ocean Village, Town Quay, St Mary's and Old Northam, Debenhams, Bargate, High Street, Below Bar,

Guildhall Square, and others have not been the success we all hoped for.

The viability of the proposed new Bargate retail seems to be in doubt.

There has been a steady drift to the west.

The reasons for the decline are not easy to discern.

The city centre lacks a real centre of gravity, there is an unfortunate lack of cohesion, contiguity, linkage, access.

Southampton has never quite established itself as a really attractive, smart niche regional centre.

What is the solution?

Floating a new city centre plan the city council speaks of a new Mayflower Quarter.

All the indications are that a city centre needs to be compact, with a centre of gravity, offering the widest range of facilities, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, chiropodists, hairdressers, banks, building societies, estate agents, bookshops, leisure and hospitality of all kinds, and a wide range of display retail shops ( as so much stuff these days is ordered on-line).

There must be plenty of parking, so that shoppers can easily take their bulkier goods home.

Ease of movement, e.g. moving pavements and hop-on-hop-off pedestrian facilities, improves attraction.

As the new city plan emerges it is very much to be hoped that citizens will take the opportunity to come forward with imaginative, constructive and practical ideas for the future of our city centre.

Alec Samuels

West End