CONTROVERSIAL plans for a block of retirement flats in Southsea have been thrown out after the developer was accused of using ‘bully-boy tactics’ to try and get its way.
Councillors revealed they had received phone calls, emails and even a Christmas card from McCarthy & Stone, which they claim were ways of trying to encourage them to award the Savoy scheme planning permission.
While Portsmouth City Council’s planning committee dismissed the application on the grounds the design was not good enough for a prime seafront site, they said the firm’s attitude also hampered the deal.
And members declared they did not fear McCarthy & Stone potentially seeking to overturn the decision at an appeal hearing as it was about ‘standing up for the people of Portsmouth’.
Tory councillor Ken Ellcome, who proposed refusing the plans, said: ‘I’m extremely disappointed McCarthy & Stone has thrown this back at us.
‘And with regards to comments made by its regional managing director about the potential loss of an £8m investment – I don’t respond very well to that.
‘Before Christmas, we got a Christmas card from McCarthy & Stone and yet we never got one last year.
‘A number of colleagues have had calls from McCarthy & Stone’s press relations team in the last couple of days, and it’s completely unacceptable.
‘The company is trying to force it through with bully-boy tactics, and if anything have firmed up my opinion that I already had about this application.’
Cllr Frank Jonas said: ‘In all my time of sitting on the council’s planning committee, I have never been put under so much pressure to try and make a decision.’
Lib Dem culture spokesman Lee Hunt pleaded with to the committee not to grant approval, referring the city’s planning policy about its aspirations for the seafront. The council had previously deferred the plans in the hope they would be changed, but the developer refused to make further amendments.
‘If it goes through to appeal, we have still made a stand, even if it costs a bit of money,’ Cllr Hunt said.
‘I want the gap filled, but I want more than this, the people of Portsmouth want more than this.’
But council planning officer Simon Barnett believed the design was ‘above the minimum standard’ and recommended it be approved.
Lib Dem councillors Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Sandra Stockdale decide not to vote because of their association with Lib Dem Cllr Will Purvis, who works for the developer.
Cllr Purvis, who did not attend the meeting, did not respond to calls from The News last night.