‘THIS is our ferry port moment.’
That was city council boss Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s message to the chamber as councillors last night voted to buy Lakeside North Harbour.
It is hoped the purchase, worth an estimated £100-£150million, will spearhead the regeneration of the north of the city and reap future profits that can be spent on local services.
Contracts for the Cosham site are expected to be exchanged by June 24, enabling the council to begin a 35-year payment plan for its offices, retail units, car park, the Village Hotel and the nearby Porsche garage.
‘This is an enormous opportunity that means we aren't dependent on other companies and we can take the future of the city into our hands, and that's brilliant,’ said Lib Dem Cllr Vernon-Jackson.
‘It means we're in control of how that area develops so we can create more jobs and wealth to lift people out of poverty.’
He added: ‘In the 1970s we built the ferry port because the council decided that was a good thing to do – and last year we made £7m profit out of that ferry port.
‘We’re doing this for a different reason, for economic regeneration across the whole of the city, but the figures say we could look up to a £94m profit.’
Twenty-four councillors voted in favour of the purchase, with one against it.
Cosham Conservative councillor Matt Atkins, who was among the 10 who abstained, said the plan was ‘ultimately’ good but questioned its pace, after it was announced by the council just eight days ago.
He said: ‘It’s clearly a site that has a lot of potential for the people of Portsmouth but it’s being done at a high speed and a very large sum of money is being spent.’
In her speech Tory leader Donna Jones, who also went on to abstain from the vote, said she was so excited she ‘nearly fell over’ when she learned of the plan, but added: 'I think there's risk to how the site is managed and regenerated.'
Labour leader Stephen Morgan backed the vote, but also said it was ‘not without risk’.
No detailed regeneration plan for the project has yet been drawn up but cabinet health boss, Matthew Winnington, said he hopes it is ‘culture-based’.
‘The most important thing for me is we use this asset for the benefit of everyone, to open it up to be something really constructive,’ he said.
‘Opportunities like this don't come along every day and that's why other councillors were as excited as they were when they heard about it.’
The exact sale price of the site will be protected by a non-disclosure agreement.
The council also heard rent rates for tenants in different parts of Lakeside North Harbour would be up for review in five, 10 and 15 years.