Aspirations for the future of Portsmouth city centre have been given the official seal of approval.
It took Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet members a matter of minutes yesterday to adopt The City Centre Masterplan, a framework which will reshape regeneration in the heart of the city for the next 15 years.
The 120-page document, which has been years in the making, contains ideas for the redevelopment of the city centre and some basic designs. Though acceptance of the masterplan doesn’t give permission for all of the plans in it to go ahead, it gives developers the green light to come forward with cash and creativity and make things happen.
Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the masterplan would be a major boost for the city.
‘This is a very good plan for the city,’ he said.
‘It gives developers some confidence about what we want to see happen.
‘We want to see people come forward and make the ideas outlined in the masterplan happen.
‘The masterplan tells everyone that Portsmouth is open for development and we want to see more jobs and housing for local people being created.’
The move follows overwhelming support from residents for the masterplan following a public consultation which was carried out from July 30 to September 14 last year.
The council received comments from 360 people in the form of completed questionnaires or written responses.
Of those, 125 residents – 39 per cent – expressed clear support for the masterplan and 46 – 14 per cent – opposed the document.
The rest were unclear in their decision.
In a report carried out after the consultation, the council discovered that those who favoured the plans said they were ‘long overdue’, ‘excellent’, ‘exciting’ and ‘ambitious’.
Others stressed the need for quality designs and investment. The council’s vision of the masterplan is ‘to create a vibrant and successful city centre that is the beating heart of our great waterfront city’.
It adds that the centre will include ‘welcoming gateways, beautiful streets, lively and distinct spaces and delightful buildings, whilst enhancing the city’s heritage assets’.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock believes the masterplan will finally make way for some big developments.
He wants to see improvements to Portsmouth Royal Mail Delivery Office, in Slindon Street, Landport, and supports the desire of Sainsbury’s superstore, in Commercial Road, to expand.
‘It means that we can get a move on and move forward,’ he said.
‘It means that we can take up things which in the past were an issue.
‘I am keen to see the development of the Zurich building in Portsmouth straightened out and I am backing Sainsbury’s in its plans to expand.
‘We are seeing a distinct change in shopping areas across the country as a whole.’
Mr Hancock said more ideas can still be added to the masterplan.
‘There is always scope to improve it,’ he said.
‘If people come forward with better ideas then they will be added to the masterplan. I am committed to getting everything under way.’
Masterplan ideas include buildings with lighting incorporated into the front which would add extra vibrancy and space to an area. There is also consideration for buildings which could be set out in a way to reduce crime.
Council officers also want to look into building green roofs and walls and planting more trees on the street. Officials also want to attract more investment to Commercial Road.
Councillor Eleanor Scott, cabinet member for environment and community safety, said the masterplan will help to achieve the aim of pumping £1bn into the region over the next 10 years.
The money will be used to bolster costal defences, redevelop the Northern Quarter and Tipner.
‘This is fantastic,’ Cllr Scott said.
‘I am so amazed that we have been a success story. We are still a long way from seeing final designs for a lot of the projects we have in mind, but we want to see is quality that will stand the test of time and remain here longer than 10 or 15 years.
‘We don’t want to see our city centre end up with the flavour of the Tricorn, where people look at it and said “you are hideous”.
‘This is the biggest thing to happen to Portsmouth since the Victorian times, and it puts big responsibility on the council to get it right.’
Tory transport spokesman Councillor Luke Stubbs said: ‘I am happy with nine-tenths of the masterplan. It is realistic to say that there will be more development in Portsmouth.’