Family devastated by Eastney house fire battling planning objections over dream £1m 'forever home' project in Old Portsmouth

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MEMBERS of a family whose lives were ‘devastated’ in a house fire are battling dozens of objections after drawing up plans for their dream home in an up to £1m project. 

Businessman Jason Phillips and his wife Kate were left without a home last year after a wood burner on their neighbour's balcony in Centurion Gate, Eastney, started a blaze that ripped through their rented four-storey town house.

The couple, who have lived in Portsmouth since 1988, were forced to live with a relative separately from their two sons Nat, 20, and Toby, 19, after the fire completely gutted their home of five years.

Devastated at losing precious sentimental items, including Kate’s wedding dress and their children's first shoes, the family saw a ray of light with the chance to build a two-floor penthouse with three bedrooms on three-storey Fontenoy House in Grand Parade, Old Portsmouth.

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The rest of the building would also be renovated with a new facade and lift as they own the freehold. Planners have recommended refusing permission.

Kate, 49, said: ‘(The fire) was absolutely devastating. It effectively split up our family, which I was really upset about.

‘I remember the feeling of panic as the alarm went off.

‘We were just lucky that no one was hurt but we lost everything except from a few sentimental items.’

She added: 'The opportunity came up and we thought that would be really exciting to build a home from scratch.

‘It will finally feel like we have a home again.'

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Her husband Jason, 50, said: 'It was particularly sad because Toby had lived in that road most of his life - we used to live next door to that house for 10 years as well.'

But the plans have received mixed views from people in the area – with 44 objections and 27 letters of support.

Jason added: 'What I don't think residents of Old Portsmouth understand is we're not developers looking to make a profit.

‘We want to make this our forever home.

'We plan to put a new facade on the building, install a lift for all the residents to use, refurbish the halls and replace some of the windows.

‘This will all be at our own cost.'

The block already has permission for a two flat extension that was approved in 2014 when it was submitted by a Chichester-based developer.

Councillors at Portsmouth City Council will consider the plans on Wednesday, September 11.