Huge park and homes could be built in Portsmouth as city council ditches Northern Quarter plans for good

A HUGE park is on the cards for Portsmouth city centre as plans for the once-named Northern Quarter are officially shelved.

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 9:59 am

Portsmouth City Council has unveiled regeneration plans for the city centre, stretching from Charlotte Street to Hope Street to Commercial Road, following the purchase of the former Sainsbury’s site.

It hopes that a large green space will not only serve existing communities and users of the city centre but will also be the linchpin for new homes and a new community.

The ambitious long-term plans – now called City Centre North – extend beyond the former Sainsbury’s site, and the proposed development will see a phased approach of work that could total nine hectares of land.

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CGI showing how the Portsmouth City Council plan for City Centre North could look

Existing buildings will be bought under compulsory purchase orders and demolished to make way for the multimillion pound park, which is anticipated to take up to 10 years to complete.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council, said: ‘We are determined to completely change the dynamic of this area, creating a new positive energy for residents, businesses and visitors, and we can now do that, thanks to owning a significant site.

‘We have already hit the ground running by facilitating a brand-new community skatepark, and now we want to share our exciting long-term plans for that northern aspect of the city centre.’

The plan for more open space has been thrown into the spotlight after Portsmouth’s parks and open spaces were used up to three times more than normal during the pandemic.

View from Charlotte Street Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman

The council said that this, coupled with the fact that 43 per cent of people in city centre neighbourhoods do not have access to a garden, has shown the demand for such a scheme.

Plans for this area have been in motion since 2004 when the 1960s-built brutalist Tricorn Shopping Centre was demolished and became Market Way car park.

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There have been many concepts for the site, including bringing in a large John Lewis anchor store and turning it into an upmarket shopping destination.

View from Commercial Road, Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman

But these have failed to materialise after hitting problems and developers pulling out.

With the pandemic forcing more businesses online, and a decline in demand for traditional shops, high streets and leisure destinations, the council said it would struggle to attract the investment need d to progress with large-scale shopping destination plan.

The council said that to avoid further complications, it was exploring this new park idea in the hope of improving quality of life in the city centre and boosting the city’s environmental status, at the same time as creating a unique space that does not compete with nearby successful shopping centre Gunwharf Quays.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘It’s widely recognised that our city centre needs to evolve with the times; just look at the current situation with high street retail, for example.

View from Cornmill Street Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘From working and travelling to feeling safe and healthy, if there is one thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us, it is that people need access to natural open space, especially in built-up areas.

‘However, the plans go beyond creating a beautiful park. The proposed green space will work in tandem with the council’s other regeneration projects, such as prioritising pedestrian and cycle travel, supporting local business, and delivering new homes.

‘What has impressed me most about these plans is how the design of this shared green space can serve so many good things that we are trying to do in the city centre. Improving opportunities for biodiversity, sustainable travel, the local economy, and people’s health – both physical and mental, are all addressed in the principles of the design.

‘As the project progresses, I am looking forward to our local and wider communities having a genuine input into the details of that design.’

The council said it would also be investing in Victoria Park to further enhance the city centre.

The authority will hold engagement sessions on the park plans early next year, before submitting a planning application at Easter, and then hold more detailed rounds of public consultation.

What the Northern Quarter was proposed to look in 2013 plans

Timeline

2004 The Tricorn Shopping Centre is demolished, leaving an empty plot of land, which is then turned into a car park.

2005 Developer Centros brings forward The Northern Quarter and wins planning permission for a scheme valued at £500m.

2008 The recession hits and the plans are put on hold.

2014 The deal is deemed as too much of a financial risk and the deal with Centros crashes.

2016 Portsmouth City Council formally agrees to end the deal with Centros. It hopes to create a new scheme with the land owner.

2016 Property investors Delancey are introduced to the project as the authority wants to work with them to create a new outdoor shopping village on the site.

2017 A new scheme is made public — re-branded as City Centre North. The main purpose of the project, which was expected to cost around £60m, was to turn Hope Street and Flathouse Road into a dual carriageway. Alongside this, both Market Way and Church Street roundabouts would have been replaced by traffic signal junctions, with a new public square or marketplace developed at the top of Commercial Road.

2019 The council announced it would be officially partnering with Delancey to bring forward the regeneration of the city centre.

2020 Delancey pulls out of partnership saying the pandemic was a ‘significant factor’ in causing delays.

2021 Council buys former Sainsbury’s site – creating an indoor skate[park in the short term.

Cascades Shopping centre also goes on the market but Portsmouth City Council confirms it would not be pursuing buying the centre, which has an £18m price tag.

The council agrees to pursue compulsory purchase orders on buildings in the city centre. A new name – New Landport – is revealed but is quickly changed back to City Centre North.

Plans are revealed for park.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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