A COUNCIL leader has branded plans for micro-flats in a city landmark as creating 'slums of the future' and said rules have allowed developers to 'get away with murder' for too long.
After years of disuse work to convert former office block Brunel House in The Hard into 153 flats has begun with a gym and retail store planned for its ground floor.
Proposals for the site's exterior have yet to be approved but due to a rule that allows ex-offices to become homes without normal council approval, the flats received permission last year.
As a result only 44 of the homes meet the government's standard size regulation for new homes, which is 37 sq m, with most of them measuring just 19 or 29 sq m.
For council boss Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson this was 'disgraceful.'
He said: 'I don't think we should be satisfied with creating the slums of the future and developers getting away without having to get planning permission.
'For them to use a government loophole to get away with those sizes is disgraceful.'
The future of Brunel House has been uncertain for a number of years as several previous planning applications fell through.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: 'I am pleased something is being done with the building but we should not be satisfied with having substandard developments in the city just because this government allows developers to get away with murder. The sooner our MPs make that change the better.'
His views were met by Tory chief Cllr Donna Jones who opposed plans for coloured cladding on the building in 2017. 'It looks almost the same as what was previously submitted and I think the owners are showing contempt by submitting something like this,' she said.
'The fact that most of the flats will be below the size standard is a great concern. People in Portsmouth deserve to live in good quality homes.'
READ MORE: Plans for Brunel House deferred
Labour councillor and housing activist Cllr Cal Corkery said: 'I know that for the residents nearby it has been a big concern that it's been left empty and derelict for a long time. In that respect it is a positive that work has started.
'My concern with flats this small though is that people are crammed in as if in rabbit hutches. They don't give people enough space to live happy and fulfilling lives.'
But speaking on behalf of the applicants Makepeace Investments Ltd, quantity surveyor John Hallett, said: 'This development was given permission and the council has had a lot of input over the years.
'Overall it's going to be an improvement to that area of Portsmouth. I think the flats will be fitted to a higher standard than you might expect.
'I keep hearing that accommodation is in desperate need, which is the case in Portsmouth as well as the rest of the country.'
Permission for the exterior design of the building such as cladding and windows is still needed from the council.