Fresh plan unveiled to transform old eyesore

Brunel House
Brunel House

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  • New plan unveiled for flats at Brunel House at The Hard
  • Doubts remain regarding conversion of site from offices to homes
  • No funds available for compulsory purchase order
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A FRESH plan has been revealed for one of Portsmouth’s biggest eyesores – despite fears the building is not safe

The owner of the 12-storey former office building Brunel House has put forward new proposals for the site to once again try to convert it into flats.

I just do not think that Brunel House lends itself to conversion. I have very low confidence in the possibility of that happening

Councillor Donna Jones

Under the new plans from Leslie Zucker, director of property firm City Estates, the building would be converted into 153 flats, with the ground floor turned into a shop and a gym.

It follows the scrapping of proposals last year to squeeze 242 micro-flats into the eyesore.

The site which is opposite the entrance to Gunwharf Quays at The Hard – was also the subject of the ambitious ‘Portsmouth Shard’ project in 2012 which was eventually rejected by councillors in 2015.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of the city council, has previously looked to push for the site to be redeveloped, naming it the ‘number one development site in the city.’

She said on the new proposals: ‘The building is in an absolutely terrible state of affairs. As a council that has planning responsibilities, we have very serious concerns about the structure and safety of the building and the idea to convert it into flats.’

The proposal for the office conversion was submitted to the city council under a prior approval arrangement – which means it does not need planning permission.

However, the plans for the ground floor would have to be given the green light by the planning committee, as would other proposals to improve the building’s facade with new windows, infill glazing and new glazed doors.

Cllr Jones insisted that any plans for conversion would not be suitable.

She stated: ‘I just do not think that Brunel House lends itself to conversion. I have very low confidence in the possibility of that happening.’

The council leader had previously refused to rule out a purchase of the site but she now said that funds to carry out the lengthy legal process are not available at this time.

Cllr Jones added: ‘If the council had the millions spare to do so, then it would put in the compulsory purchase order (CPO) and buy the building, but we do not.’

She previously revealed to The News that through the council she had acquired two offers from developers keen to buy the site, but both had been rejected.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth Liberal Democrats insisted that a CPO was the best option – pointing to the council’s bulging property portfolio it has accumulated in recent years.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘If the council can afford to buy a Waitrose in Somerset, it can afford to carry out a CPO on Brunel House. We need to get hold of this site, demolish it and build something much better there.’

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP and city councillor for Charles Dickens called the building the city’s ‘new Tricorn’ due to the amount of development occurring around it.

He said: ‘So many residents, businesses and visitors have raised with me the eyesore that is now Brunel House.

‘It really is the city’s new Tricorn. We desperately need more social and affordable homes.

‘In this unique and special part of Portsmouth, I want the council to push harder for our city’s future. Any development must complement Portsea’s rich heritage.’