Millennium project approaches end of a long, long road

The proposed route of the Millennium Walk at The Hard
The proposed route of the Millennium Walk at The Hard
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A BREAKTHROUGH may mean Portsmouth’s Millennium Walkway can be finished this year.

Plans for the walkway – a chain ‘link’ path from Old Portsmouth’s Round Tower to the historic dockyard – have been in place since the 1990s.

But despite more than a decade of negotiations, one section, between Gunwharf Quays and The Hard, remains unfinished.

Now Portsmouth City Council’s leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said an agreement was close.

He said: ‘The negotiations have been difficult, because there are four partners involved in this section of the pathway. Gunwharf Quays, for the section within the centre, Wightlink, because it runs along part of the roof of their terminal, Network Rail, and ourselves.

‘Negotiating with Network Rail has been really difficult and as recently as last week I feared we wouldn’t get it finished within my lifetime.

‘About two years ago, I threatened to lock all the lawyers involved in a room until all the issues had been settled.

‘But thankfully, we have finally started to clear things up, and I think we will have full agreement within six months, if not sooner.’

The trail’s final section will be a covered walkway, through Portsmouth Harbour railway station, which belongs to Network Rail.

An agreement will bring an end to a wait which has seen the council tie up hundreds of thousands of pounds. In an internal report, issued in November 2008, the council estimated it would cost £895,000 to complete the walkway.

But seven months later, it was forced to hand back a further £250,000 to Gunwharf developer, Berkeley Homes.

Berkeley had given the council money towards building the walkway, but when the deadline for it to be completed expired it had to be repaid.

The council has to finish the walkway or it faces a bill of up to £3m from the Millennium Commission, which part-funded the project.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It’s been a frustrating wait, and we will have to pay more than the Millennium Project funding we received to complete it, but we’re contractually obliged to finish it, because of the deal by which we got that grant, and it will be a good addition to the seafront.

‘But we’re here now. It seems Network Rail are happy to let us do the work and we’re looking forward to going to tender, so people can see the finished walkway as soon as possible.’

Roger Ching, Portsmouth City Council strategic director, said the council was waiting on legal documents from Network Rail.’

Network Rail said: ‘We’re hopeful the Millennium Walkway can be completed.’

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