Fury over plan to demolish historic Portsmouth church

BOARDED UP The Gospel Hall in Inglis Road, Southsea, is being demolished to make room for two
BOARDED UP The Gospel Hall in Inglis Road, Southsea, is being demolished to make room for two
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PLANS to demolish a 100-year-old church hall and replace it with homes have sparked outrage.

Portsmouth City Council has given planning permission to developer Charles Marks to knock down Gospel Hall in Inglis Road, Southsea, and build two semi-detached houses in its place.

But neighbours say they feel powerless and overlooked after repeatedly objecting to the plans, which they say will rob the area of its heritage.

Steve Lympany, 49, owns St Francis Motor Services, the garage next to the hall and has been to two of the planning meetings to object.

He said: ‘No-one was in favour of it. The reason it is a conservation area is to keep the character of the area and none of the residents wanted this.’

‘Councillors voted for this and they are supposed to represent the residents. I feel powerless.

‘Because people feel powerless the attitude is “what can we do?”.

‘The community is broken down.’

The road is in a conservation area where special permission has to be sought from the council to make even minor changes, such as removing a tree from a garden. John Elliot, who has lived on Inglis Road for 20 years, said: ‘I am amazed that the planning committee allowed it.

‘People get fined for chopping a tree down but the church being knocked down makes a mockery of the conservation area.’

Plans to redevelop the site were submitted by Charles Marks at the beginning of 2014 after it bought the property from the trustees that owned it.

That application was rejected by the council’s planning committee, as were amended plans submitted later that year.

But a revised bid submitted in January has now been approved.

Linda Symes, one of the area councillors, said: ‘It’s a shame.

‘My heart says I would have liked to have saved it but unfortunately we can’t keep things just for the sake of keeping them.

‘There was no planning reason for refusal.’

Councillor Hugh Mason also represents the ward and sits on the planning committee.

He says the second application went to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol on appeal and since the developer met all the objections there were no grounds for refusal.

‘Had we refused it would have gone to appeal at the inspectorate again and the council would be faced with a huge bill for losing,’ he said.

‘While I both regret very much what is happening and think it is far from the best use which could be made from the site, I understand why the planning committee came to the decision it 

‘They had been painted into a corner.’

When asked whether he would have considered fighting a further appeal on the grounds of the hall representing a part of the city’s heritage, Cllr Mason said: ‘As local councillors I think the technical term is that we were stuffed.

‘There was no way we could keep fighting, they had met all the requirements of planning law and unfortunately planning law favours the developer.’