Next steps for Leamington and Horatia House in Portsmouth to go ahead after outline £120m agreed

A NEW £120m housing development in the city centre is a step closer to being realised as outline funds were agreed by the council - despite concerns about the cost.
Leamington House and Horatia House aerialsLeamington House and Horatia House aerials
Leamington House and Horatia House aerials

Portsmouth councillors approved the next stages for the condemned Leamington and Horatia House tower blocks in Somers Town during a virtual full council meeting today (Oct 13).

This included the deconstruction of the blocks at a cost of around £10m and to proceed with the wider development at an estimated total cost of £120m.

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‘Ambitious’ plans for 440 homes on Leamington and Horatia House site
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As reported it is thought the new development will provide 440 new homes with a minimum of 272 socially rented homes to replace the amount lost when the towers are brought down.

During a council debate members of the Conservative party said they supported the project but had concerns over lack of detail about how the cash would be spent.

Councillor Scott Payter-Harris said: ‘The project to build these homes is important but I have an issue when the leader of the council says £120m.

‘It's £120m if the project doesn't overrun. In the report the director of finance is advising it could need an extra £20m.’

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Cllr Terry Norton added: 'What you are asking is for us to give permission for the Lib Dems to borrow £120m for 272 council homes that the people of Portsmouth will have to pay back. My answer to that is no.

'I'm not prepared to allow them to borrow that money that generations including my daughter will have to pay back for blocks that will probably not be in any fit state by the time the debt is cleared.'

However, Cllr Steve Pitt explained the cost would not affect taxpayers.

'It will not be the council taxpayers of Portsmouth who will be repaying,' he said.

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'It's correct the people who live in the flats will be funding it with their rent.'

Council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, was 'disappointed' in some of the comments. He said: 'I have to say I'm surprised and very disappointed in this debate. I thought we would have a view that building homes that 272 families in the heart of the city would find unanimous support.'

Labour member and housing activist, Cllr Cal Corkery, believed the site should provide as many social homes as possible. He said: 'We need to be maximising the amount of social housing.

'Across the country we have got millions on waiting lists. Lots of people are trapped in unsafe, overcrowded accommodation, there are lots of people on the streets and as hidden homeless. The case for building social housing is overwhelming.'

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A total of 25 councillors voted in favour of the decision and 14 abstained.

All 272 households in the towers were moved into new council homes when work to removed Grenfell-style cladding revealed structural weaknesses.

The council is currently working with wildlife experts after nesting peregrine falcons were discovered at Horatia House - which could delay deconstruction.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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