WORK will now begin on plans to buy the St James’ Hospital site to protect it against a large housing development.
Portsmouth City Council has approved a proposal by Cllr Luke Stubbs and Cllr Steve Hastings for officers to investigate whether the Milton land can be purchased by the authority for £8.25m.
The agreement comes despite criticism over a timescale not being set and the financial risk to taxpayers. Yet it is hoped the land could house a residential care home planned for Farlington, accommodation for vulnerable adults and the Milton and Fratton Harbour Schools.
While the Lib Dems agreed in principle to the assessment, they believed it was more financially viable to buy the Milton Harbour School site for £3.25m – and asked for a report to go before councillors next month with an update.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader, warned the council would be pushing the scheme ‘into the long grass’ should no firm commitment be made. But that was thrown out and no timescale was given.
Cllr Donna Jones, Tory leader of the council, said: ‘The council will need to barter hard with the NHS on the price and there will need to be political will. But I am not going to agree to a report coming back in March just so that it becomes a political football.
‘Some of the figures are going to be confidential.’
Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, warned it felt like an ‘election ploy’ to win over Milton voters – and said that the accommodation for vulnerable adults would entail a major change in policy for the council.
‘We are sceptical about committing millions of pounds to this and committing ourselves to putting people back into institutionalised care,’ he said. ‘It’s not something we can finalise in a month. There would need to be a consultation with the public and possibly central government.’