PLANS to introduce a series of new beach huts in Southsea have been thrown into doubt – because a bird survey hasn’t been carried out.
Plans for 25 new huts near Southsea Esplanade and another 25 on the northern edge of Eastney beach were considered by Portsmouth’s planning committee.
But a report recommended permission should not be given to build – because an ‘ecological assessment’ had not been produced determining whether the huts could harm local wildlife and their habitat.
Yet Portsmouth Tory planing boss Luke Stubbs, who brought forward the applications, said the paperwork wasn’t done as Natural England requested a three-year study showing whether the sites were an important home for birds.
He said the demands were ‘ridiculous’ – and the scheme is now ‘dead’ as councillors on the planning committee backed the report.
But Natural England says it hopes to reach a solution – and bosses were set to meet the council today to work it out. Yet Cllr Stubbs said: ‘The beach huts proposal went through a full consultation and a policy document was drawn up and so it’s already taken 18 months to get to this point. Natural England’s response to the planning application has been to demand a three-year bird survey and that is just to get to the start of discussions.
‘It’s ridiculous. How can it possibly be proportionate for it to take five years to determine a minor planning application? The council is not going to waste hundreds of thousands on drawing up environmental documents and so now the scheme is dead. It’s disappointing though – particularly with 400 city residents on the waiting list.’
A Natural England spokesman said: ‘We are working with the council to help them find a legally-robust solution that will enable the installation of the beach huts, while protecting the internationally-important birds that visit our shores during the winter months.
‘Various options are being explored, including restricting occupation of the huts to the summer months and relocating the huts a few metres down the beach, away from the sensitive habitat, opposite the local leisure centre.