Ambitious bid for 66-bed care home for veterans in Portsmouth is delayed

DELAYED proposals for a state-of-the-art 66-bed care home for veterans have not been shelved, bosses behind the scheme have insisted.

Friday, 24th April 2020, 1:01 pm
What the proposed veterans care home facility on the former St James' Hospital site could look like.

Rob Bosshardt, chief executive of Portsmouth-based Royal Naval Benevolent Trust, remains optimistic about the plan for the new facility despite blows to the project.

The charity revealed its ambition to build the new centre on part of the former St James’ Hospital site in Milton, Portsmouth, last September.

But the application has been plagued by delays and now Mr Bosshardt is appealing to planners at Portsmouth City Council to help speed up the process.

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His plea comes after the authority suspended all planning activities while to focus on ‘business-critical’ services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Bosshardt said: ‘The demand for a veterans care home locally can only increase. Wouldn’t it be a good news story if we could deliver something like during the crisis that faces us?

‘This would be a win-win. We want to be able to deliver this care home and deliver something for Portsmouth during this darker time we find ourselves in.’

Mr Bosshardt claimed the application process had been ‘slower than they had anticipated’.

Last year environmental concerns over nitrate pollution saw thousands of builds across Hampshire put on the backburner – including the care home site.

Mr Bosshardt said if councillors and planners were able to give the green light for the bid by July, then the new facility could be open by autumn next year.

‘Right now we’re having to sit on our hands,’ he added. ‘We’d just really like to get things moving.’

Councillor Donna Jones, Conservative leader in Portsmouth said it was ‘frustrating’ the plan had not progressed.

‘The biggest losers are veterans in the city who will benefit from the highly specialist home once it’s built,’ Cllr Jones said.

The Tory chief claimed the planning committee had been ‘dogged by a slow response’ to the nitrates issue, ‘coupled with a number of vacant planning officer positions’, which delayed ‘many applications’.

She added the site had a potential to be a ‘win win’ for the city and would raise £1.5m for the NHS upon its completion.

Portsmouth’s city development chief, Cllr Steve Pitt, admitted there hadd been ‘delays on everything planning-related’ due to the coronavirus pandemic and said no new applications were being processed.

‘We realise that is frustrating for people but the priority had to go to frontline services,’ he added.

‘The whole thing has slowed right down. But everybody across the country is trying to get it back up and running as fast as they can but we can only really do what we can do.’

RNBT already operates a veterans care home in Gillingham, Kent, but the organisation felt there was a need for one in Portsmouth.

It entered into a formal partnership with a national developer, LNT Care Development, who has already bought a site in Portsmouth, last year.

The new home will be a purpose-built three-storey building, featuring a lounge and dining room on each floor, a coffee shop, hair salon, library, garden room and cinema, surrounded by landscaped gardens.

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