Bid to create plan protecting land in Portsmouth comes under fire

Residents have campaigned against hundreds of new homes being built on the former site of St James' Hospital, in Milton
Residents have campaigned against hundreds of new homes being built on the former site of St James' Hospital, in Milton
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CAMPAIGNERS face a setback in their bid to create a planning dossier giving them control over development in a built-up area of Portsmouth.

Residents have revealed they want to put together a neighbourhood plan to prevent hundreds of new homes being built on the former site of St James’ Hospital, in Milton.

They hope the legislation, which has been recently promoted by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, could also be used to protect local pubs and shops.

But Portsmouth’s Tory planning boss, Councillor Luke Stubbs, has shot down the idea and said it would give people ‘false hope’ as it would not work.

‘Neighbourhood plans don’t mean much in urban areas because national planning policy already allows housing to be built on almost any brown field site anywhere in England,’ Cllr Stubbs said.

‘I am obviously well aware of the strength of feeling against building on St James’, but to suggest a neighbourhood plan could stop it just raises false hope.

‘If all it took to stop house building in a locality was a neighbourhood plan then every area would have one and no housing would be built anywhere.’

‘It cannot protect shops either and in fact for the last year or so no planning consent has been required to convert shops to housing.’

Lib Dem ward councillor and group leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the results of a traffic survey he helped carry out with residents last year should do more to prove Milton cannot cope with more homes.

‘The neighbourhood plan is worth doing, but there are stronger cards we have got,’ he said.

‘The traffic surveys we did should be helpful in stopping development.

‘We know the Velder Avenue traffic lights are already over capacity at rush hour.

‘A developer would have to show what things they can to make the junction work better, and I am not sure what can be done to get more cars through there at rush hour.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he still had questions over why the NHS was moving care facilities to nearby St Mary’s when St James’ was a peaceful setting for patients.

As previously reported, it was revealed at a council meeting the hospital site could be sat on a ‘plague pit’ and the authority will investigate to determine if that is the case.