Off The Fence with Penny Mordaunt MP: Let’s not miss the opportunity to do something special with The News Centre

If the News Centre building has to go, let’s not miss the opportunity to put something great in its place.
The News Centre is set to become a new depot for First Bus's all-electric fleetThe News Centre is set to become a new depot for First Bus's all-electric fleet
The News Centre is set to become a new depot for First Bus's all-electric fleet

The News Centre building is iconic to Portsmouth. It is such a familiar sight. It has been the training ground for many of our country’s top journalists.

It has been at the heart of our community and so many initiatives over the years. Such heritage is precious - which is why I have worked so hard to ensure places like the Wymering Manor and the Hilsea Lido are preserved, renovated and repurposed for new generations.

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The News Centre’s condition means that it will give way to new buildings. I am glad that all will be done to preserve what heritage can be salvaged - and I personally hope the famous ‘NEWS’ sign that has graced the front for decades can find a new home.

However what follows should also add value back to the local community.

On October 18, there will be a consultation on the new electric bus depot that is planned for the site.

Any development on such a prominent site can be a huge catalyst to improving the area. Will the design for the building do this? What is the value to the community for such a development? Yes, we can look forward to a clean bus fleet, but what about the value to those people on its doorstep.

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There are some very practical things that local residents would benefit from - fast charging points for their cars, more parking provision, community facilities and retail opportunities.

The council in its wisdom has decided to run all its rental car projects in the south of the city, leaving no pilot project for anywhere north of the dockyard.

Perhaps there be should be a car or bike club attached to the depot. I know from the survey work I have done in the north of the city that some households, especially older people, would like to give up their car if they could have reliable and stress free access to a rental car.

In deciding what development should be permitted on the site, Portsmouth City Council should have a vision for the Hilsea area.

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The plans for the bus depo only cover about 1/3 of the site. The remainder will be left for other commercial development.

Once established, the depot on the other site of the road will be vacated. What should be built on that site? Portsmouth City Council has failed to master plan areas of our city when presented with those opportunities.

It should not miss the chance to set out a vision for this central and hub area of our city.

It should seek to provide the community facilities Hilsea has long been denied. And it should think about the new context such development now sits in.

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We have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on new sea defences, walk and cycle routes and a beautiful public realm.

We are making the Hilsea Lines more accessible and pleasant to enjoy and we are renovating the Hilsea Lido.

Whatever sits in the heart of all of that must be attractive, useful and loved by the community. Let’s not miss this opportunity.