Concerns grow over Portsmouth UTC bid

School heads join MP to call for fair share of funding

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CONCERNS have grown over the creation of a specialist University Technical College in Portsmouth ahead of a crucial meeting to decide whether it should be built.

Criticism of the building’s design, the fact it would be built on a section of playing fields and traffic fears have been raised in an official report going before a committee on Wednesday.

We knew from the offset that building on playing fields was always going to be a problem; but actually these are some of the biggest playing fields in the city and we are not doing this without consultation with Sultan Education Academy.

UTC project manager Fiona Haynes

Partners including the Royal Navy, the council and the University of Portsmouth are leading the £11m charge to create the school at the site of Trafalgar School, Hilsea, off London Road.

It would see teenagers from 14 to 18 gain qualifications fit for careers in electrical and mechanical engineering and advanced manufacturing – and big employers would have a hand in the curriculum.

But Sport England is just one of the major bodies that has concerns about the government-funded bid.

It says the redesigned pitch layout appears ‘tight and would not function correctly’ and this would be ‘detrimental to the delivery of school/college sports’.

Sport England said it would not entirely object to the plans if a new sports hall that would be created as part of the project could be enlarged.

But bosses said they can’t increase it from a three court to a four court facility due to the ‘restricted budget’.

A highways engineer has also urged £25,000 be spent on a new residents parking zone in the area due to the expected rise in student and staff parking.

The Design Review Panel – which provides planning advice to applicants – says it is ‘disappointed’ by the look of the UTC and ‘it does not respond well to its surroundings.’ It adds: ‘Although both a secondary school and engineering block, it looks like neither.

‘The range of uses on site suggests a potentially rich building which is not reflected in its lack lustre and flat elevations.’

The concerns come despite local firms – including Land Rover BAR and BAE Systems – throwing their support behind the plans.

Planning officers have recommended the UTC plan be approved, concluding: ‘The socioeconomic benefits of the UTC must be recognised and be given significant weight in the determination of this planning application.’

Project manager Fiona Haynes said: ‘This is the best site for the UTC, and there’s not a lot of space in Portsmouth.

‘Because the engineering companies are more towards the north of the city, we wanted it to be accessible.

‘Plus the pupils who would come here would come from places like Winchester and the Isle of Wight, so we thought if it were to go up near the M27 junction, it would make it accessible.

‘We knew from the offset that building on playing fields was always going to be a problem; but actually these are some of the biggest playing fields in the city and we are not doing this without consultation with Sultan Education Academy, which runs the site.

‘The shape of the building is quite strange, but that’s because we wanted to maximise the amount of playing fields.’