COMMENT: Tea factory’s move exposes Portsmouth’s problem of student flats

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This isn’t the first time we have had cause to write about student accommodation in Portsmouth, and we fear it will not be the last. But sadly, we again must bewail the planning system we are currently lumbered with concerning student flats.

Gadsden Tea – known until recently as All About Tea – has been a hidden jewel in Middle Street in Southsea for several years now. The road it is on is not the most prepossessing of streets, but the tea factory and attached shop and cafe have been a welcome spot for those in the know in Portsmouth.

It has now been revealed that the proprietor, Andrew Gadsden, is moving to Hilsea as the building has been earmarked for 66 student flats. We wish him well there in whatever shape his business may take in the future, whether it returns to being a purely import, blending and packing station for onward sale, or whether it has a shop or cafe attached.

But again, as council leader Donna Jones reveals in her comments to The News today, the situation reveals how, if not quite over a barrel on the subject of student accommodation, the city is a victim of piecemeal planning.

Cllr Jones says: ‘The council has no plans to build any development in Middle Street, including student accommodation. We are not involved in any plans to build on our property... we do not have a need for more student accommodation.’

So the council leader can explicit say that more student accommodation is not needed in Portsmouth – given there are hundreds of units being built in and around the city centre. And we know from previous years that the university itself is not consulted on all developments and indeed has not been in favour of some of those proposed. So we are left with a situation where developers hold the upper hand – and that’s not a strong position to be in.

Don’t get us wrong, we believe passionately that the university is a boon to the city and brings with it innovation, excitement and prosperity. But we wish for a new planning system that had more teeth in establishing what was wanted, and where.