Driving down the M275 into Portsmouth, Tipner is one of the first sights you see.
And it’s not the prettiest of landscapes – there is plenty of commercial and derelict land that has been undeveloped for decades.
The reality is, it’s difficult and complex, and there are issues with landownership as well.Seamus Meyer, Portsmouth City Council’s strategic project manager for Tipner
The plots of land that make up Tipner east, west, the firing range, Horsea island east and the future Horsea island country park come under the responsibility of either Portsmouth City Council, Tipner Regeneration Company, John Henry Pounds and the Homes & Communities Agency.
All parties have aspirations of building new homes, creating jobs and building better transport links that benefit the whole city.
And it’s a vision the people of Portsmouth believe needs to finally become a reality.
So why is everything taking so long?
Issues among landowners, site decontamination, flood risks and the lack of a coherent masterplan for the whole area has held up major regeneration schemes.
The council signed a City Deal with the government in November 2013 in return for £48.75m towards its bid to open up Horsea island and the Tipner firing range to create 3,000 jobs and 2,370 homes over 58,000 sqm of land. The money awarded was a ‘shortfall’ identified in the project – as the council estimated a total of £830m would have to be put in and the income generated from the entire scheme would be £780m.
The entire plan is expected to take another 20 years – and the firing range will not come under the council’s possession until at least 2017.
That’s because its still being used by the Ministry of Defence and a new range has to be built at Longmoor, Hampshire, to replace it.
The work there is expected to take time as it’s a site of ‘scientific interest’ and ecological surveys will need to be done.
Seamus Meyer, council strategic project manager, says: ‘We have been talking about doing stuff at Tipner for 50 years.
‘We got money from the government to build the motorway junction and park and ride, we got money for the City Deal, we making fantastic progress, albeit it’s not happening as quickly as people like. The reality is, it’s difficult and complex, and there are issues with land ownership as well.
‘It’s a massive project. It’s a 15, 20-year plan.
‘We know the public are frustrated, we are as well.
‘And the reason for that is because of the constraints the land has, the contamination, the poor access, the poor utilities, the fact it’s low-lying, and so it’s difficult to develop.
‘The City Deal is the catalyst in moving this forward.’
‘When people coming to the city come down the M275, look at what they have to look at. A scrapyard and a landfill rubbish tip. There’s a lot of work to do, and one of the big challenges for us is we are working close to the harbour.’
Seamus says the council could consider buying Mr Pounds land to enable the project to move forward.
TRC meanwhile has planning permission to build hundreds of homes in Tipner east. But company officials say it cannot press on decontaminating its land and re-developing it because HCA owns land in the middle of the plot and is waiting to see what its going to do.
HCA has appointed Radian to build new homes – but work has yet to get under way.
Steve New, TRC director, says both parties need to work out a way to split up the land they have in order to ‘package’ them up to potential developers.
And Steve says there is little TRC can do other than prepare its land ready for decontamination. Fences have gone up around bits of the land and piling work has started.
But council officer Seamus has raised frustrations over the situation.
‘We are all a little bit disappointed that Radian is not on site building the first 80 homes,’ he says.
‘We are waiting on an answer from HCA.
‘That is taking longer than we expected, but it’s not in the council’s control because we are not the landowner or the developer.’
TRC and HCA also co-own the former Greyhound Stadium and need to work out how best to develop it.
TRC official Steve says: ‘It’s frustrating. We want to package the land up and sort this out.’