Portsmouth council boss pleads with government to lower city's 'harmful' housing targets

CRIPPLING government housing targets that will see thousands of new homes built in Portsmouth will cause ‘significant harm’ to the city, a council chief has warned.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has written to housing secretary Robert Jenrick pleading for the government to curb its house building targets for Portsmouth

The proposals, which are based on a national formula, Portsmouth will be forced to build almost 18,000 new homes over 20 years.

But Cllr Vernon-Jackson, who heads up Portsmouth City Council, has insisted the island simply would not have enough space to accommodate all the new properties, without damaging the environment.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick visiting a new housing estate as part of the government’s First Homes scheme, a flagship project that offers discounted houses to local people and key worker first-time buyers. Photo: Brian Eyre

In his letter to the housing secretary, the veteran Liberal Democrat chief said: ‘Portsmouth is a small and very densely populated city of around 215,000 inhabitants.

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‘We are the UK's only island city as most of Portsmouth is on Portsea Island and the city is banded on three sides by water and to the north by Portsdown Hill. It is a small geographical area with only 40sq km of land and the city is already very densely populated.

‘The government target of building 17,700 houses in Portsmouth is not based on local need but upon the national formula that you and your department have created.

‘We are very concerned that this means that we will have to build housing in entirely inappropriate places where there will be significant harm to the environment, and also that the infrastructure in Portsmouth will not be able to cope with this level of development.

‘The roads, schools, and doctors are all under significant pressure already and to add over 17,000 new homes will add to this pressure and is entirely unacceptable because of the reduction in quality of life for local residents.

‘I, as leader of the city council, therefore ask you to reduce the housing target number for Portsmouth to one that is achievable and will add to the quality of life for local residents and not detract from it.’

The target is part of prime minister Boris Johnson’s campaign to ramp up house building nationally, with an ambition to build 300,000 homes nationwide, every year, but the mid-2020s.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick insisted he would listen to the views of communities but said the government would not change its overall house building target.

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