Beach flat plans set to be refused after six years

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PLANS to build 131 flats at Eastney beach are to be thrown out by Portsmouth City Council – almost six years after they won conditional permission.

The council’s planning committee will meet on Wednesday to decide whether to reject plans by defence firm Qinetiq for three blocks of flats at Fort Cumberland Road, next to Fraser beach.

The council gave the scheme permission in November 2005, but, until last year, failed to agree with Qinetiq on conditions including maintenance of sea defences, and road alterations.

The committee ruled in March it must review the decision, because too long had passed since it was submitted. Planning officers have advised refusing the scheme due to environmental concerns, new building policies and flooding fears.

Refusal would mean Qinetiq must submit a new application to develop the site.

Eastney and Craneswater Tory councillor Luke Stubbs said: ‘The development would be bad for the area, people oppose it and I hope the committee rejects it.’

The plans upset members of the public, including naturists, who were banned from the beach because negotiations between the council and Qinetiq about changes to Fort Cumberland Road fell through. The council and the firm have agreed the beach will be open to the public.

But other complications arose. In 2007, a Dartford warbler, a protected bird, was found to be nesting near the site, which led environmental officers to demand a full site assessment.

Qinetiq has not shown any evidence it carried out the investigation. Since 2005, the council’s planning policies have changed.

Eastney is now considered inappropriate for tall buildings and 30 per cent of new developments must be low-cost, while Qinetiq offered 25 per cent – 33 flats. The development’s 2005 surveys are considered too old to prove the scheme won’t cause flooding.

Cllr Stubbs said: ‘No-one thinks this site will never be developed. But this can’t be accepted because it fails to meet council policies.’

A Qinetiq spokeswoman said: ‘The property market has changed a great deal in the last five years, and we are starting to look at alternative plans for the land.’