A CITY MP will meet traders and residents today to revive the fortunes of a Southampton community.

Itchen MP John Denham wants to discuss how the Woolston district centre can be vibrant and attractive to shoppers and visitors when shops cease trading.

At least 15 stores have closed in the retail district within the past 18 months. Only a couple have been replaced.

But Mr Denham, the Cabinet minister for university and skills, insists new Government cash and council powers can help Woolston survive the recession.

Empty shops could be transformed into new community advice centres, new spaces for arts and crafts, new premises for small start-up businesses, community cafes, and spaces for social enterprises and the voluntary sector, the Labour MP said.

Only last month a group of Woolston traders threw their weight behind the Daily Echo’s Shop Local campaign which encourages residents to support the traders in their area.

Mr Denham said: “Woolston has been particularly hard hit with the move from the area of Vosper Thorneycroft. Empty shops can be eyesores or crime magnets.

“Our ideas for reviving town centres will give communities like Woolston the know-how to temporarily transform vacant premises into something innovative for the community.” Woolston councillor Carol Cunio has already presented a petition from 300 residents and shopkeepers to the Tory run city council urging it to provide more support to the shopping area. Fellow ward councillors have been lobbying for better signage for nearby free parking, quicker collection of rubbish bags, and a discount in business rates for Woolston traders.

Cabinet member for economic development Royston Smith welcomed some of the ideas but said the Government needed to release public funding to restart stalled regeneration projects in the city, such as at Woolston Riverside, that would create sustainable jobs and business.

He said the council was offering six to 12 month leases for alternative uses of council owned shop units. The meeting is due to be held at 12.30pm in St Mark’s Institute, Victoria Road.