Portsmouth City Council considers snapping up IBM site to gain cash

IBM's UK headquarters at North Harbour in Portsmouth. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (14965-1)
IBM's UK headquarters at North Harbour in Portsmouth. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (14965-1)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Credit: Wiki Commons (labelled for reuse)

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IBM’S city headquarters could be taken over by the council in a bid to generate cash and protect jobs.

It comes after landowners Highcross got consent to turn part of the Lakeside North Harbour site into flats.

While IBM cut jobs earlier this year, the company insists it is staying in Portsmouth and remaining in part of the building.

But Cllr Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, says she would like to see the authority buy the building off Highcross and let out the space to firms to make extra money.

She is concerned about plans for the flats and wants the premises to be protected as employment space.

‘My concern is anything that would make this site residential, because we need to protect employment space in Portsmouth,’ Cllr Jones said.

‘We would look to buy it to and lease it out like what has happened with 1000 Lakeside.

‘It gives the council more income which we need.’

The flats did not need planning approval as govermment legislation was passed last year which said offices can be turned into homes without the need for it.

The council only had to be satisified the site would not pose a flooding risk to potential tenants – and it has not identified there being any problems.

Highcross says getting the consent was a ‘strategic’ move and its prime focus was to refurbish the space and relet it should IBM decide in future to leave.

As previously reported in The News, IBM closed two of its four units because more employees were working out of the office.

The firm said that it made sense to bring everyone with a desk still together. The consolidation move was not linked to the redundancies, which were handled separately.

Cllr Luke Stubbs, cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, agreed the council was considering its options.

‘In my view, it was a serious mistake by government to allow office space to be lost to housing,’ he said.

‘Lakeside is by far the most important business park in Portsmouth. The council will look at all options for buying the site depending on the future use that is proposed for it. I am hoping it will stay as office space as there is demand for it.’

Labour ward councillor Aiden Gray said it was a good idea but the investment would have to be justified and not mean more cuts to public services. If we are going to be buying things to generate income, we have to be mindful of budget cuts and people facing hardship,’ he said.

A spokeswoman for IBM said: ‘IBM continually evaluates its real estate requirements to match client needs and will continue to retain a presence in the Portsmouth area.’