Homes revamp could take up to 30 years

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THE REGENERATION of a deprived area of Portsmouth could take up to 30 years to complete, Portsmouth City Council accountants have warned.

But the team working to build more than 700 new homes in Somers Town has promised to do all it can to deliver them before then.

In a report to councillors, the city's accounts department said Somers Town regeneration phase two, the main home-building section of the scheme, could take '20 to 30 years' to finish.

The estimate was included in an advisory document released this week, after the government's decision late last month to pull 122m Private Finance Initiative funding from the plan.

The original completion date of the 733 eco-friendly homes, with PFI cash in place, was to have been 2019.

But Somers Town Regeneration project manager Launce Morgan said: 'The difference is that with the PFI cash, it would have been like a mortgage. We would have built the houses in eight or nine years, but paid off the cash over that 20-30 year period. The accountants are warning that because we won't have that money up-front, it could take us longer to raise the money, and build bit-by-bit. They are right that we have to make the money in a different way, but we think we should be able to do it much more quickly than they suggest.'

Since the team learnt the PFI cash would be pulled, staff have been working on alternative methods to raise enough to complete the project.

Discussions are ongoing with private developers, who could be brought in to build homes to be sold on the open market, while the city council focuses on delivering 'affordable' homes - sold for below market-price, and council housing.

It also hopes to take advantage of EU Jessica funding, a source of money which can be used for regeneration, though not normally for house-building.

The team hopes the regenerative effect of Somers Town phase two, which the government has accepted would make 680m for the Portsmouth economy, and create more than 7,000 jobs, could convince the EU fund managers to offer funds.

Mr Morgan said: 'It's difficult. Government funding cuts mean the whole council is looking again at what it can do to find money from other places. But we're working hard. We're a priority for the south of England, and certainly a council priority.'