Portsmouth City Council planners urge councillors to approve 12-storey University of Portsmouth tower despite 'shadowland' fear

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a new 12-storey university building on the edge of a Portsmouth park are set to be decided by councillors next week.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 9:02 pm

Portsmouth City Council's planning committee has been urged by council officers to approve the £100m scheme for the former Victoria swimming pool site, despite concerns that it will overshadow the park.

'The application proposes to re-use a brownfield site located within a prominent city centre location for the provision of a high architectural quality, low carbon, landmark academic building,' a report published ahead of Wednesday's meeting says.

'[It] would enhance not only the university's teaching and learning facilities but also the city's built context and, most of all, the competitive advantage of Portsmouth in attracting skilled professionals and young talent.'

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University of Portsmouth proposed Victoria Park building

In 2011 planning permission was granted for a 33-storey halls of residence, named the Blade, at the same site but this has not been progressed.

Instead, the university drew up its latest plans for a smaller building to expand its academic provision in humanities, law and business subjects. It includes lecture theatres, exhibition space and a 'destination' rooftop restaurant and terrace.

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University vice-chancellor Graham Galbraith said it would 'set a high standard of design and be an asset both for the university and the city'.

The application has been backed by Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan who said the building would 'offer an impressive step change in the quality of the surrounding public realm'.

But it has drawn opposition, including from Friends of Victoria Park - and the council's service manager for parks.

Friends of Victoria Park representative, Terry Pearson, said the building would cause the park's ‘illusion of tranquillity’ to be ‘lost to future generations forever’.

‘This building may well be a good design, but this is the wrong place for it,’ he said. ‘Portsmouth does not want its people’s park to be a shadowland.

‘Since Portsmouth is the most densely populated city in the UK outside London, it follows that we have the least amount of open space in the country per capita of population.

'We cannot afford to ruin what little we have.’

But the planning committee report says the building would only lead to a very small reduction in the amount of the park that does not receive at least two hours' sunshine a day.

It adds 'the proposed development would be acceptable in terms of resultant permanent and transient overshadowing.'

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