Portsmouth could rake in millions with new ferry port lease deal

A Wightlink ferry pulling into Portsmouth harbour  Picture: Ryan Atfield Photography
A Wightlink ferry pulling into Portsmouth harbour Picture: Ryan Atfield Photography

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A NEW deal has been agreed which could help bring tens of millions of pounds back into Portsmouth – staving off cuts to key council services.

City council leader Donna Jones yesterday agreed the new lucrative leasing deal on the Wightlink ferry base in White Hart Road during a meeting at the Guildhall.

The new terms will allow the city council to extend the lease of the Old Portsmouth site by 150 years.

This will enable the authority as freeholder to offer new leasing opportunities to investment and pension firms that they would be willing to pay a premium for, said Cllr Jones.

As part of the deal, the council would retain ownership of the Wightlink facility.

She added this premium could help offset vital savings the council needs to make as part of central government’s sweeping austerity plan.

Speaking during the meeting, the Tory chief said: ‘We have to achieve £24m of savings this year, next year and the year after.

‘I’m hopeful that next year over 50 per cent of the savings we need to make will come from generating new money and bringing it into this council and not by simply salami-slicing, cutting public services such as toilets, libraries or museums – all of those statutory services that people really love and that we really don’t want to cut.’

Bidders are understood to be keen on linking up with the council in such a venture and would offer 12 per cent more for an extended lease.

Although exact details of the firms who have registered their interest in the new leasing agreement are shrouded in secrecy, The News understands that an eventual deal has the potential of bringing tens of millions into the city.

Cllr Jones added: ‘We gave the public a commitment we would get the best possible returns on the council’s current assets to the freeholds we own all around the city.’

Southsea resident Jerry Brown had raised concerns over the exact benefits the council would gain from such a scheme.

But Liberal Democrat councillor Ben Dowling said: ‘We see the financial sense of it.’