Delay leads to fears over the future of £12m Portsmouth hub project

FUTURE IN DOUBT? The proposed hub in Somers Town
FUTURE IN DOUBT? The proposed hub in Somers Town

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CONCERNS have been raised over whether the planned £12m community hub at the centre of Somers Town’s regeneration will ever be built.

The controversial building has already cost Portsmouth City Council more than £1.2m and now the project’s future could be in doubt because of wrangling over its planned health centre.

The region’s NHS authority was expected to sign a contract earlier this year to provide funding for the facility, but city leaders admitted there has been a delay and they do not know when an agreement will be reached.

The distinctive building – which would have an upper floor spanning Winston Churchill Avenue – would house a health centre and dental service, a housing advice centre and a cafe.

The leader of Portsmouth City Council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he was concerned the contract had still not been signed.

He said: ‘They want to see a finished design, but we want them to commit to it before we spend the money on the final design.

‘And if there isn’t a signature by the summer then things will start to become more difficult – but I am still hopeful there will be.

‘The health service reorganisation hasn’t helped, but we just have to get this done.’

Tory opposition spokeswoman for finance Cllr Donna Jones said: ‘The council has been completely irresponsible in allowing this money to be spent on such a huge scale without having the revenue being agreed by the PCT. We’re still spending money every month that this drags on.

‘We’ve wasted the better part of three years planning this project and it’s outrageous that we still do not have a commitment from our key partner.’

MP for Portsmouth South and cabinet member for planning Mike Hancock said the overall regeneration of Somers Town was progressing well, but he was frustrated by the PCT’s indecision.

He said: ‘It would make a well man sick the amount of messing around they have done. And it isn’t fair to the council, the community or anyone involved to be delayed like this. If they don’t want the health centre in the hub any more they should say so. If they are not then the whole thing has to be revisited.’

Portsmouth executive director at the Ship PCT Cluster Innes Richens said: ‘Portsmouth City Primary Care Trust and city council have been working together for several years towards the NHS occupation of The Hub, a reprovision of health services from Somers Town Health Centre.

‘This process is ongoing and we’re discussing a number of issues relating to the legal agreements and construction of the building, as it’s vital that the PCT adheres to the requirements of the Department of Health.’

The council’s regeneration team hopes work on the 4,488sq m building will be able to start in May next year and finish by December 2013.