Heated row between Portsmouth councillors over Southsea seafront road closures

A DEBATE over seafront road closures in Southsea turned sour during a mammoth council meeting as opposition politicians branded the situation a 'debacle' and claimed a five-year-old girl was 'knocked over' as a result.

By Fiona Callingham
Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 11:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 5:00 pm
Councillors argued over the impact of road closures along the seafront.
Picture: Habibur Rahman
Councillors argued over the impact of road closures along the seafront. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Almost eight hours into a virtual full council meeting yesterday councillors were reminded by Lord Mayor Rob Wood to remain civil as members of the Lib Dem administration came under fire for the closure Eastney Esplanade at the start of lockdown and the lack of consultation beforehand.

Eastney ward representative, Conservative Councillor Luke Stubbs, said more than 1,000 residents had signed a petition calling for the road to reopen due to the effect on surrounding roads.

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Calls for seafront roads in Portsmouth to be reopened

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He said: 'This motion is inspired by the debacle that has taken place recently in Eastern Parade where the council has closed the seafront without consultation - not with me as a ward councillor or, more importantly, the residents. What have they got as a result?

'Firstly, it is impossible to park. It has also meant quite a lot of traffic jams and stand-offs.

'Also, more seriously, quite a large number of accidents. Some of these are comparatively trivial, like wing mirrors getting knocked off but there are reports including a five-year-old taken to hospital and someone knocked off their motorbike.'

Group leader, Cllr Donna Jones, added: 'Cllr Stubbs along with Cllr Linda Symes and I have been absolutely besieged by casework and people reaching out to use in a very desperate situation.

'Yes, a five-year-old girl was knocked over last week. It's very difficult to put any fault on the driver because it's chaos down there. The child wasn't badly injured but they could've been and they could've been killed.'

Councillors voted in favour of Cllr Stubbs’ motion which called on any schemes with a potential duration of more than six months to require public consultation before they progress.

It also sparked a row over who made the decision to close the road.

Council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, explained the council was given emergency powers to promote social distancing. He said: ‘It’s a bit rich for councillors here in the Conservative group to attack this council for using powers given to us by the Conservative government.

‘This city would not have survived the outbreak really as well as it has without that advice.’

Traffic boss, Cllr Lynne Stagg, said the decision was influenced by the police. She said: ‘It was the area commander's request and Cllr Pitt contacted me and asked my opinion. I said “well if the police think it's a safety issue then we should go along with it.” It was a request by the police not an order.’

However, Cllr Stubbs said he had received an email from Cllr Stagg at the start of lockdown ‘saying it was the residents’ suggestion’.

He added: ‘It doesn't stack up.’

Parts of Eastney Esplanade and Clarence Esplanade were closed indefinitely by the council on May 1.

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