HOPES that an iconic city building could become a 'cultural and creative anchor' for Southsea have been voiced as councillors unanimously approved plans to transform Knight and Lee into a hotel, cinema and office complex.
Members of Portsmouth City Council's planning committee gave the go ahead to a multi-million pound development in the former John Lewis shop in Palmerston Road at a meeting today (Dec 4).
The beloved 1950s structure that closed its doors in July will now be regenerated by developers That Group into a 43-bed-hotel, cinema, coffee bar, shops and offices.
One resident attended the meeting to raise an objection. Martin Meadows, who lives in nearby Stanley Street, said: 'I am concerned as a result there will be a detriment to on-street parking. Parking in KC zone is very difficult now.'
But Councillor Steve Pitt questioned the difference the hotel would make to the residents' parking zone. 'Nearby parking in the KC zone only has a three-hour window, which is no good to anyone staying overnight in the hotel or anyone working in the offices - only the short term visitors to the building,' he said.
John Lewis announced in January it would be closing the store and developers That Group quickly held public consultations on the site.
Peter Tisdale, from That Group, spoke to the committee. He said: 'When we were offered the chance to develop it we were at first very unsure. Although it would be a tremendous opportunity we were worried about being the guys who came along and closed John Lewis and would never be forgiven.
'But the team is very confident we will look back at this and say it's the best thing that could've happened.'
Councillors agreed that the mixed use of the site was more appropriate than just shops or homes.
Cllr Lee Hunt commented: 'It is sad but I think here something good will come out of the demise of Knight and Lee.
'This could be a cultural and creative anchor for Southsea.'
Cllr Pitt added: 'This building could've been microflats -developed into tiny little rabbit hutch rooms - and there would've been nothing we could have done to prevent that.'
The development will also include a rooftop bar and terrace.