Portsmouth council 'in early talks' to buy Sainsbury's site to kick-start wider city centre regeneration project
THE NEXT steps in a major regeneration project for Portsmouth could be taken soon as the city council looks to buy a closing supermarket, freeing up space for a wider redevelopment of the city centre.
Portsmouth City Council revealed it is in 'early conversations' with Sainsbury's about its site in Commercial Road north of the city centre – which is due to close next year.
If bought by the authority, the site would open up a larger area – for which plans have failed to get off the ground since the early 2000s – for regeneration.
Previous proposals for the area - that were branded as both the Northern Quarter and City Centre North - included the former Tricorn site, which is now the Marketway car park as well as the A3 going into the city and the shops surrounding it.
Currently the council is remaining tight-lipped about the Sainsbury's bid due to 'commercial sensitivity.'
However, council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: 'There's an area currently covered by a plan and the logic is if this land (the Sainsbury's site) comes into the council's ownership we would look to make it part of a wider scheme across the city centre.'
And a council spokesman said: 'As part of the emerging new local plan for Portsmouth, the council is reviewing the opportunities for new development and regeneration in the city centre in a new masterplan and delivery strategy.
'This will identify new opportunities for homes and businesses and for commercial and community developments.
'Consultation on the new local plan and its policies for the city centre will be carried out in early 2021.
'Plans for the Tricorn site are under development and we expect to be able to release further information on this in 2021.'
The spokesman added that £26m from the government's transforming cities fund would be used to reduce congestion in the city centre, focusing on key bus routes along Lake Road, Commercial Road, Southampton Road and at Rudmore and Portsbridge roundabouts.
Former council leader and Portsmouth Conservative boss, Cllr Donna Jones, told The News her group had set aside £15m to re-develop the city centre when in power.
But she said she had concerns the Lib Dems had 'spent this money on other schemes' since coming into power in 2018.
She added: 'Whilst I support the council’s bid to buy the Sainsbury's site, it is only on the condition that the council is serious about moving forward with the plans for the city centre road scheme.
'This is crucial in unlocking the massive development area to make Commercial Road and City Centre North viable for the long term.'
In 2017 it was reported that the council had submitted a £25m bid to the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for the city centre scheme.
The LEP has confirmed a funding application from the council was withdrawn in October 2019.
And as reported last year the council was set to convert the disused Playland Amusements on the corner of Commercial Road into a drop-in centre for residents to learn more about regeneration schemes and provide feedback.
This has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Previous council schemes for the city centre were set to be carried out in partnership with investors Delancey.