More needs to be done to bring about Portsmouth's regeneration - claim from opposition parties

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Opposition political parties have said more need to be done to boost the city centre as they call out the Liberal Democrat-controlled city council on their regeneration agenda for Portsmouth.

The council said it aims to transform Portsmouth by creating “thousands” of new jobs and homes, boosting the local economy while creating a strong sense of place and improving transport options. Additionally, regeneration projects play “a big role” in strengthening communities and tackling health, social and economic inequalities in the city.

In the city centre, the council has tabled three regeneration projects, including the city centre north scheme which was granted planning permission in October last year. The development between Hope Street, Charlotte Street, and Commercial Road will provide 2,300 homes, 10,000 sqm of commercial space and a 7,000 sqm park, but the Labour Party, ahead of next week’s local elections, has said more needs to be done to boost the city centre.

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An artist's impression of the proposed City Centre North development in Portsmouth with the two first phase buildings identifiedAn artist's impression of the proposed City Centre North development in Portsmouth with the two first phase buildings identified
An artist's impression of the proposed City Centre North development in Portsmouth with the two first phase buildings identified

Labour’s group leader, Cllr Charlotte Gerada, said that despite the council’s efforts residents tell her how “disappointed” they are at the city’s retail sector, including the former Debenhams building which is still empty after previous plans for flats and retail units were shelved.

“Our high streets are drab, litter-strewn and full of boarded-up premises,” she said. “In all our shopping streets, from Cosham to Southsea, much-loved businesses have closed. Plans have been announced for the former Debenhams sites in Commercial Road and Southsea – yet nothing appears to be happening.

"We see no strategy from the Lib Dems for revitalising our high streets, just failed plan after failed plan. On top of that, the chaos in the planning department and lack of vision are holding our city back. Labour will support residents and businesses to breathe new life into our shopping areas. We’ll reform business rates to bring down costs. We will allow communities to lease empty shops and buildings for use by and for local people. And we’ll use empty shops for pop-up galleries, showcasing artworks held by the city’s museum service and celebrating local artists and creatives.

“We want to see the speeding up of infrastructure projects to grow the economy and create skilled jobs. We’d lobby the government for the investment we deserve. The public doesn’t trust the Lib Dems on this because they can’t get the basics right. On the contrary, Labour has a proud record of investing in the International Ferry Port, delivering on Gunwharf Quays and the genuinely affordable homes families need.”

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Portsmouth Civic OfficesPortsmouth Civic Offices
Portsmouth Civic Offices

Another large development proposal, Tipner West, has been forged by the council since 2014 when the government granted Portsmouth £48.75m to explore how the area could be regenerated. The site, which can be found opposite the M275 to the park and ride, has legal protections for wildlife which has complicated the scheme’s progress. The plans aim to create a minimum of 814 homes and a maximum of 1,250 alongside 58,000 sqm of marine-focused employment space.

Portsmouth City Council leader Steve Pitt said that a report on the local development plan, containing details on Tipner West, was postponed so that the council could “investigate with DLUC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) around what their thoughts were”. “Those meetings have taken place, there will be a report published around the first week in May and then a cabinet meeting for the local plan to come to full council,” the Liberal Democrat councillor said.

Copnor councillor Lewis Gosling said the Conservatives want to see “real change” in the city. He said: “A Conservative-led administration would look to move out of the Civic Offices and into Commercial Road, to help boost consumer footfall but also opening up the potential for the redevelopment of the current Civic Office’s site to provide high-end office space as well as a potential site for restaurants and bars too.

“We would finally get the long-awaited Tipner West development underway, which will provide new environmental protections and will enhance the current nature reserve part of the site. For the regeneration project at Tipner, we will consult with the government, to work to secure the funding needed, working together with Homes England to get this project off the ground at long last."

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Also on the cards is the potential downsizing or relocation of council staff from the civic offices which raises questions about the south of the city centre – as well as opportunities.

Cllr Gosling said: “Any relocation of the Civic Offices must be done to benefit Portsmouth council tax payers. The potential income from the sale of the current site, along with income from our office sharing arrangements with partners that we already have, will enable us to move into a modern fit-for-purpose office to allow the council to move forward into a new period of innovation that looks to ensure council services be improved and monitored.”

Two coastal regeneration projects are currently underway: the South Sea Defence Scheme, set to be completed in 2029, and the North Portsea Island Coastal Scheme, due to finish in 2026. Recently finished schemes include the King George V football complex in Cosham, launched in February this year. Featuring two full-size pitches and numerous smaller pitches for nine, seven and five-a-side football. Additionally, Victoria Park underwent a four-year transformation, supported by National Lottery funds. Highlights include a community hub, a new children’s play area, and the restoration of a historic water fountain.

Cllr Pitt said that while the council wants more regeneration, their key priority is to have “oven-ready schemes so that when the right funding source becomes available we are in really good shape to put in high-quality bids and secure money”. He said: “Cities like Portsmouth and Southampton plus our colleagues on the Isle of Wight have real challenges with deprivation in certain communities and we want to see that properly addressed.”