A POLITICAL row has broken out over fears the redevelopment of prime land on Portsmouth’s seafront into flats could damage the future of South Parade Pier and the region’s economy.
Senior Tory councillors say the site of the former Savoy buildings, being turned into a McCarthy & Stone retirement home complex, should have been given special protection and set aside for the creation of a five-star hotel and restaurants.
Council leader Donna Jones and her deputy Luke Stubbs say that would have better complimented the pier – which is currently undergoing a major renovation – and reinvigorated the seafront.
And the blame has been put on the Lib Dems when they were in charge of the council for not including the Savoy site – formerly owned by ex-Pompey boss Harry Redknapp – in a seafront masterplan which the Tories say would have given the city a ‘strong case’ to block the McCarthy flats development.
The masterplan was created to show developers how the council wanted sites to look.
Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson says including the site in the masterplan would not have stopped homes being built. A separate bid for properties to go there was granted in 2007 so the council would not have been able to make a challenge.
But Cllr Donna Jones said: ‘A lot of money is being spent on bringing the pier up to a decent standard.
‘We’re working hard to attract a top quality hotel to the city, increase events including world class sporting events and make Portsmouth one of the most aspirational cities in the UK to live.
‘The Savoy site is key, and should be adding to the seafront in terms of its design and usage.
‘Instead, we will have a block of retirement flats imposed upon us.
‘If the planning polices, in particular the Seafront supplementary planning document had been specific and included the Savoy site, we would have had a good strong argument to reject the planning application from McCarthy & Stone.
‘As it happens there was an irregularity in that the only key parcel of land along the seafront to be excluded from the SPD was the Savoy site.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Putting the Savoy site in the masterplan would not have made a jot of difference, because it already had planning permission for housing on it. We could have drawn a line around it and said that’s in the seafront masterplan, but houses would have still been built on it.’ He added: ‘I don’t think it will have any affect on the pier. At least there won’t be an empty, derelict site next to it.’