Tipner West: Lennox Point super-peninsula plan for Portsmouth is still up in the air

THE future of Portsmouth’s controversial £1bn Tipner West project is hanging in the balance, despite a number of councillors saying they do not fully support it.
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Having voted to 'pause and rethink' the scheme in October, which council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said meant the scheme was ‘dead in the water’, Portsmouth City Council considered a detailed progress report written at its request, which said land reclamation was the 'strongest option' for any development.

No decision has been made on the future of the project, which is being considered as part of work to create a new Local Plan setting out how the council will meet its housing targets.

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But a number of councillors said they will not support the Lennox Point element of the proposals due to the 'unacceptable environmental destruction' of protected habitats in the harbour caused by land reclamation.

Lennox Point - a picture issued by Portsmouth City Council in SeptemberLennox Point - a picture issued by Portsmouth City Council in September
Lennox Point - a picture issued by Portsmouth City Council in September

David Allwright, speaking on behalf of both at Tuesday's meeting, a move itself he said 'represents the fact that this is one of the worst projects we've had to deal with', said land should not be reclaimed 'full stop'.

'This is a SSSI, SPA protected habitat of the utmost value,' he said. 'It is one of the most highly protected and designated bits of habitat in England. These designations are not given out lightly and should not be thrown out lightly.'

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He said the council had not done enough to consider alternatives nor had it done enough to challenge government housing targets.

Living Street at Lennox Point
Picture: Joe MunroLiving Street at Lennox Point
Picture: Joe Munro
Living Street at Lennox Point Picture: Joe Munro

These concerns were echoed by opposition councillors.

'The Labour group cannot and will not support the Lennox Point proposal due to the unacceptable environmental destruction it entails,' the group's deputy leader, councillor Cal Corkery, said.

'What we need at Tipner West is a sensible development within the existing land mass that provides much-needed affordable housing, employment opportunities and protects the natural environment in the process.'

Progressive Portsmouth People councillor Jeanette Smith said she was opposed to the inclusion of it within the draft Local Plan.

Responding to these concerns, the report said the project would lead to 'net biodiversity gains' and that a larger development, including land reclamation, was the only way to make it financially viable.

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It said: 'Schemes of smaller scale and fewer economic benefits will not be capable of providing both sufficient income returns and attracting the required government funding to meet the scale of the significant costs necessary for this site.'

Up to the end of November, the council had spent almost £20m developing its plans, some of which was covered by a £50m government grant.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he was 'absolutely committed' to having a Local Plan ready for submission in March but that it will be down to all councillors to approve.

'It is for the council to decide whether we're absolutely committed to doing that because the danger to the city of not having a compliant plan is that all the protections we have on our green space are lost,' he said.

But he warned that doing nothing 'was not an option' because of the need to build flood defences in the area.

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This work is estimated to cost more than £30m and Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the council would not be eligible for financial support from the Environment Agency.

Conservative group leader Simon Bosher said there had been 'an awful lot of delay' on the project and accused the Liberal Democrat administration of a 'dereliction of its duty'.

Responding to Cllr Vernon-Jackson, he said: 'You're suggesting that we leave it to the very end of the process, thereby leaving most residents hanging on for another six months, at least before we actually get [to a decision].

'You're setting up, in my opinion, the local plan to fail knowing full well that risks taking the decision out of our hands.'

He said the council needed to take 'ownership' of its Local Plan and not leave any chance that a decision would be made by the government.