More than 300 homes across Crown Court, King Albert Court, Lords Court and Wimpole Court – off Lords Street, Fratton – will be affected by the efforts to revamp the estate and end anti-social behavior that has been plaguing residents.
The planning application for the improvements have been validated and the council is now waiting on confirmation of the next steps for the £3.6m scheme, which would begin next year and be completed by 2024.
The works would see a wide range of replacements and maintenance, including the removal of above-ground walkways that connect the area's apartment blocks, a fresh paint applied to the buildings, and new lighting and CCTV installed.
Now residents hope the improvements will turn around the area’s fortunes, with many saying that the courts are in desperate need of a facelift and renewed efforts tackle persistent drug dealing and drug taking often witnessed in the walkways.
Frances Bolton, 73, who has lived in Crown Court for 12 years, said: 'We have druggies hanging about, I often smell drugs and see little bags out on the walkways. They use them as rat-runs. I wouldn't walk my dog past 9pm at night.’
According to Hampshire Constabulary data, the wider Charles Dickens and Nelson area of the city has seen reported crimes rise from 664 incidents in November 2020 to 901 in October 2021.
And residents have had concerns about the safety of the communal facilities around the courts, with one 25-year-old resident, who has a one-year-old son, adding: 'It's not safe - and the lift keeps breaking down.
'And I don't trust the railings with my little one. They look so rusty.'
Another resident, who has lived in Crown Court for seven years with her two children, said many people had given up on any hope of improvements for the area.
She said : 'If it was nicer, people would have more respect. There isn't a lot of respect around here. I have had graffiti on the outside of my flat.
'We all think the same - there comes a point where you just give up.'
Frances agreed that the degradation and lack of respect for the area had led to apathy setting in, with public meetings about proposed improvement attracting little attention.
She said: 'We have had meetings, but there was only three people there. It's disappointing.'
Councillor Cal Corkery, who represents the ward, is encouraging more residents to speak up about their needs, as there are concerns that residents with mobility issues could be severely hampered by the walkway removals.
Cllr Corkery said: ‘At the moment, I think there are three lifts in the blocks, and if one of those lifts go down, because all the walkways are interlinked, people can walk along to the next block. People have raised concerns quite strongly. We’d much rather (the council) leaves the walkways as they are and invest more in secure-access doors.’
And there are still other parts of the area that need similar improvement works, according to the councillor – but residents can be unable or unsure how to make their voices heard.
The Labour councillor said: 'Portsmouth is often not replacing those housing components until there is an issue, which is fine when issues are reported. But my concern is people often don't know or have to kick up a fuss.’
In the current financial year the council has set aside £31m to make improvements for council tenants, from bathrooms and boilers, window, and roof replacements, according to Councillor Darren Sanders, Portsmouth City Council cabinet member for housing and preventing homelessness.
Cllr Sanders, a member of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, said: ‘We're looking forward to getting this work underway for residents, and would like to thank them for their insights that have helped shape the project. As a landlord, it's really important that we listen carefully to the needs of our tenants and leaseholders when it comes to upgrades and estate improvements.
‘This scheme is part of our wider, annual maintenance programme. In this financial year we've set aside over £31m to make improvements for tenants, from bathrooms and boilers, window and roof replacements, all the way through to vital safety measures like better CCTV and security doors that the residents living in the areas around Crown Court will see.’