Cross-party sea defence involvement

Shingle and debris on a storm-lashed Southsea seafront
Shingle and debris on a storm-lashed Southsea seafront
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THE future of Southsea’s sea defences is likely to be decided by a group of five councillors from across all parties, it has been revealed.

Portsmouth City Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson today named members of the specialist group that is set to be rubber-stamped at a cabinet meeting next week.

He listed members as Lib Dems Cllr Hugh Mason and Cllr Steve Pitt, Tories Cllr Donna Jones and Cllr Luke Stubbs and Labour councillor Judith Smyth.

The group will work alongside members of the public and the council’s boss for environment and community safety, Cllr Dave Ashmore, to establish the best design for defences from Long Curtain Moat to Eastney Barracks.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The sea defences are going to be at Southsea for the next 100 years.

‘So this has got to be bigger than party politics. We have to make sure that they meet everyone’s needs and is something that can be treasured. I think it is best if we can get everyone together on this.

However, former council leader Cllr Donna Jones said: ‘I haven’t agreed to be in the group yet. I do think it’s right and proper there should be an inclusive group on this. But it should be inclusive to everyone.

‘That’s why I have asked Gerald to include Tony Davenport from Friends of Old Portsmouth, Leon Reis from the East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum and David Baynes from Friends of Canoe Lake in the group. They represent thousands of residents in the area. If Gerald wants to be truly inclusive he should invite them to join the group.’

In response Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘When Donna was leader of the council she didn’t include anyone from other parties to discuss the defences.

‘The people from these groups will be included in the consultation and we will have meetings with them in which they will be involved over and above the ordinary, even though this group will only consist of councillors.

‘I hope Donna and Luke Stubbs will want to be involved.’

Cllr Dave Ashmore said: ‘This is an incredibly important project which will help to protect over 8,000 homes and businesses in the city for the next century from flooding.

‘Given the importance and scale of the project, we want a wide range of voices from across the political spectrum to come together to ensure that this scheme is a success. The public’s input into the design is also vital. We’ll be announcing dates for the next phase of consultation events very soon so that this can be captured.’