Portsmouth is big enough to shape its own destiny

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It has taken 16 years, but it is beginning to look as if Portsmouth is on the cusp of achieving a deep-seated ambition.

On April 1, 1997, after 24 years of frustration, the city finally rejoined the premier league of local government.

From 1973 this proud city had played second fiddle to Hampshire County Council and bowed to its demands in all things that really mattered – economic development, strategic planning, education and social services.

When, in 1997, Portsmouth finally won back those powers by becoming a powerful unitary authority, many thought it would be the touchstone for a era of economic prosperity for one of the poorest communities in the south.

Much did happen. But not enough. Yes, after much huffing and puffing we got Gunwharf Quays and the Spinnaker Tower, but then came the recession and bold initiatives like the Northern Quarter scheme to rejuvenate tired old Commercial Road hit the buffers.

And, of course, there was the ever-present shadow of government interference and red tape.

So, if we are to believe the coalition desire to give new power to England’s cities in the shape of the City Deal, we might just be in a position to shape our own destiny properly.

Yes, there is a way to go, but as we report on page four today, the government (which still has to approve our dreams) is, so far, looking favourably on them.

And so it should. If Portsmouth’s bid for a City Deal is successful, the council will get greater powers to unlock land to boost the economy. As council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson says: ‘If the government is proposing to give up powers and making decisions then it’s a good thing for us.’

The redevelopment of Tipner, that Northern Quarter transformation and now Ministry of Defence land at Horsea Island and Tipner which might become available, are all key to the city’s future prosperity.

It is about time a city of Portsmouth’s standing was given the ability to plough its own furrow – for good or bad.We only hope the government shares our view.