‘Plan B’ revealed in bid to preserve fields at hospital

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A POTENTIAL second buyer could step in if Portsmouth City Council fails in its bid to purchase the St James’ Hospital site to save it from over-development.

Council leader Donna Jones and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt revealed the Homes and Communities Agency is interested in buying the NHS land.

From left, Cllr Luke Stubbs, MP Penny Mordaunt, Cllr Donna Jones and Claire Upton-Brown

From left, Cllr Luke Stubbs, MP Penny Mordaunt, Cllr Donna Jones and Claire Upton-Brown

Cllr Jones hopes the council will be able to buy it and improve a school there and build a care home but said the HCA option is more likely.

Under that scheme homes would be built but the agency would work closely with the council, Cllr Jones said.

‘A big developer would want to maximise profits,’ she said.

‘The HCA is about building houses that are sustainable, they would work with us on primary school places and road infrastructure.’

Last night she told a public meeting at St James Church the council is trying to balance its books to buy and improve the site but is £10m short overall.

If the council did buy the site it would aim to build a care home and improve the existing Harbour School in a scheme worth £22m in total.

That figure would rely on the site being sold for £7m.

Cllr Jones added: ‘We really do want this to work. It’s going to be very tough.

‘I’m already £10m adrift. To get the land for £2m or £3m, that would be fantastic.’

The council has previously agreed a proposal to look at buying the land for £8.25m.

Residents at the meeting agreed the council stepping in would be the best option.

Dominic Goodyear, 49, of Clovelly Road, Southsea, said: ‘The council should be buying the land at all costs.

‘I don’t think as a community we should be at the mercy of a developer

‘My future grandchildren will be growing up in this area probably and it won’t be sustainable to live here.’

Liberal Democrat opposition leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson backed the council but said time had been lost when his similar proposal was turned down.

He said: ‘We’ve lost six months and that means the whole site is at risk.’

Ms Mordaunt said residents could have some control by helping with a master plan through a stakeholder group or neighbourhood plan.

She said: ‘It is clear people are worried such decisions will be taken out of their hands if a developer comes along so we want a solution to this fast and to ensure everyone knows the facts.’

Ms Mordaunt and Cllr Luke Stubbs met planning minister Brandon Lewis to discuss master plan options.