Portsmouth City Council tries to reject housing targets it says ‘contradict’ air quality issues

COUNCILLORS have slammed 'impossible' housing targets that contradict government's threats over improving air quality in the city.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 6:52 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 7:11 am
Portsmouth councillors are angry that they are expected to see more homes built in the city while trying to reduce air pollution

At a cabinet meeting yesterday (March 25) members attempted to throw out imposed housing numbers of 863 a year by requesting a new target based on local need and the urgency to tackle air pollution.

Currently around half the target is actually built in the city each year and the council has warned there will soon be no more land left to build on.

Speaking at cabinet housing boss Councillor Darren Sanders said: 'The crunch has come, it's as simple as that. We are more constricted than other cities like Oxford, Cambridge and London because most of the city is an island and we have some protected space.'

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At full council last week members unanimously declared a climate emergency in the city, following the news that government warned it would impose a clean air zone if the council failed to show it could improve air quality.

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Cllr Sanders added: 'On the one hand we have the Department for Transport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs saying that we have got an air pollution problem and that we need to improve our air quality. And on the other hand we are being told we need to build more houses than is possible.

'It really frustrates me that we have these artificial targets that we can't meet. We will have to start building on Farlington Marshes, on our protected spaces.'

Cabinet member for resources, Cllr Jeanette Smith, agreed. 'Last week we declared a climate emergency,' she said.

'That should now come into everything we do. That disappoints me. We need to tackle air quality issues. We also need to tackle the homeless situation and build more social housing.

'Student housing will be built and there is nothing we can do to stop it. We need to rely less on cars.

'Our Local Plan needs to join all of these together. Someone once said to me "why waste a good crisis?"'

Cllr Lynne Stagg, head of traffic, added: 'It's not just about building x amount of houses it's about the lack of infrastructure. More houses will lead to increased traffic and increased air pollution.'

Councillors agreed to an amendment on the housing target report that read: 'The government's artificial housing targets be replaced by a target reflecting local housing need and local sustainable development in line with the government's desire for us to tackle air pollution and the fact we are in a climate emergency.'

Cllr Sanders concluded: 'Unfortunately this is the best we can do. This is the only time I have been angry since we resumed power last May. On the one hand we have a government who has set us unrealistic housing targets and on the other hand we need to make sure our children don't choke and our city isn't clogged up - those two things don't go together.'