Budget 2021: Millions of pounds to be pumped into Portsmouth to upgrade Hilsea Lido, build a new football stadium and create UK's biggest urban park
MILLIONS of pounds is to be pumped into Portsmouth to transform the northern part of the city, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced as part of his Budget.
A huge £20m of ‘levelling up’ cash has been green-lit for the city, in a move leaders last night hailed as ‘fantastic news’.
The funding windfall will see £8.75m being pumped into creating the longest urban park in the UK.
The development will span the northern boundary of Portsea Island, creating new walking and cycling areas for residents.
And at its centre will be the Hilsea Lido, which is to receive £3.5m to fund long-awaited upgrades at the ageing leisure hub.
Also among the key areas to receive investment from the treasury is the city’s new cruise terminal, which has bagged £11.25m.
The cash has been touted as a massive leap forward in improving the facilities by council bosses and port executives.
It will mean the port can expand, allowing some 250,000 more cruise passengers a year to visit Portsmouth, with each major cruise bringing with it an estimated £1.5m boom a day to the economy.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘This is fantastic news for the city and I'd like to thank the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for recognising the importance of this bid.
‘We have plans for a truly innovative way to transform the visitor economy by creating world-class facilities and linking the north of city through creative, environmental design.
‘The success of the port will be transformational for the city, providing employment opportunities and complementing the offer as the UK’s leading marine and maritime region.
‘This successful Levelling Up Fund announcement means we can get work underway to deliver a spectacular new terminal extension ready by spring 2023.’
On top of this, a further £986,000 is being splashed out on constructing the new John Jenkins Stadium at the current Moneyfields football site, off Moneyfield Avenue, Copnor.
The cash was the final piece in the £3.5m needed to create the new state-of-the-art facility, named after Cosham D-Day hero and life-long Pompey fan, John Jenkins, who died in December 2019.
Claire Martin, chief executive of Pompey in the Community – which is behind the development – said work could finally begin ‘in a matter of weeks’, with the stadium set to open in September 2022.
‘This is transformational for us,’ she added. ‘We have been trying to raise the funds to get us over the line for nearly three years now. With Covid, fundraising has been even more of a challenge. This is the final amount to get us there.’
The new grounds will feature two full-size 3G artificial turf pitches, which can be used all year round. There will also be a five-a-side pitch which will specifically cater for disabled teams across the region.
As well as the new stadium and pitch, the cash injection will also fund a host of new community facilities, including classrooms, a gym, fitness suit, boxing centre, community café and bar and an eco-class next to the allotments near the site.
Claire added the investment would be a huge boost for spots in the city – although stressed more cash would still be needed to bring all the island’s grassroots facilities up to scratch.
‘This will be aspirational,’ she added. ‘To have somewhere of that high quality to play will be huge. There just aren’t the facilities in the city. So this is going to be massive.’
Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt said the Budget windfall would finally help to make the north of a city a destination to visit.
‘This will transform the north of Portsea and give out communities there some amazing new facilities,’ the Portsmouth North MP said.
‘It will make the north of the city a destination for people to travel to with some amazing sports and cultural amenities, beautiful walks and new businesses.
‘It will give an economic boost and will be a catalyst to other investments in green transport… Let’s get cracking.’
However, Stephen Morgan, Labour MP for Portsmouth South, said the chancellor’s cash plan had ‘failed to deliver for working people’.
The shadow armed forces minister said working people had ‘never paid so much for so little’.
His comments came amid concerns over the rising cost of living in Portsmouth, following cuts to universal credit this month and rising fuel prices, which have already impacted thousands of the city’s poorest families.
Mr Morgan said: ‘This budget is yet another example of the government’s failure to improve the daily lives of working people in Portsmouth. Never have they paid so much, for so little.
‘Families across our city will be feeling the pinch this winter as the government continues to struggle to get to grips with rising fuel prices and the cost of living.
‘Today we saw nothing to reduce the burden on working people with no VAT reduction on their energy bills. Little comfort for those on NHS waiting lists. Nothing to be seen on community policing and no real action to tackle the climate emergency.’
Lib Dem chief Cllr Vernon-Jackson was also concerned about the impact on families, who have seen cuts to their benefits.
‘This will hit people in the city very badly to the level of about £20m coming out of the Portsmouth economy,’ he said. ‘That will hit the poorest families the hardest.’
Chancellor Mr Sunak insisted the Budget would ‘level up every part’ of the UK and would build the ‘foundations for a stronger economy’.
He added: ‘One year ago, this country was in the grip of the biggest recession in 300 years. Thanks to our plan for jobs, we are today recovering faster than our major competitors, more people are in work, and growth is up. But uncertainty in the global economy means that recovery is now under threat.
‘That is why this Budget and spending review delivers a stronger economy for the British people–strengthening our public finances, helping working families meet the cost of living, supporting businesses, delivering stronger public services, and driving economic growth.’