Doubts over Portsmouth’s Blade tower plan after developer quits

DOUBTS Blade tower
DOUBTS Blade tower
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THE future of a landmark building planned for Portsmouth city centre is in doubt after the developer behind it pulled out.

The news means that the construction of the University of Portsmouth’s huge new hall of residence – dubbed the Blade tower because of its striking appearance – has been delayed.

The iconic structure will stand on the site of the former Victoria Baths and rise more than 300ft high above the city’s skyline. It was set to be finished next year in time for the start of the September term.

But the scheme has run into trouble after financial reasons led to construction firm Watkin Jones abandoning the project. The university told The News it was looking for a new developer but was not able to say how long the delay would last.

University Vice-Chancellor John Craven said: ‘Ongoing discussions mean the university is still unable to provide any specific additional information. It remains committed to the scheme both strategically and financially and hopes to be in a position to progress it shortly.’

MP for Portsmouth South and council cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development Mike Hancock said he was confident a replacement for Watkin Jones would be found.

He said: ‘It is an amazing development and when it is finally built it will be a major landmark in the city for generations to come.

‘And it will provide much-needed accommodation for thousands of students right in the heart of Portsmouth.

‘It is unfortunate the developer has pulled out for financial reasons, but I am sure the university is working very hard to find a new one.

‘They want this building built as much as we do and we will do everything we can to support them.’

The building was granted planning permission last year amid controversy over its height and modern design, but won the support of the Portsmouth Society and the Canon of St John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral David Hopgood.

Objections were raised by local residents and English Heritage, which said it believed the tower was ‘vastly too big’.

Conservative group spokeswoman for planning and regeneration, Cllr Donna Jones, said: ‘It is extremely disappointing news.

‘This is a vital corner of Portsmouth and as a university city with more than 17,000 students this is a hugely important project.’