Proposals for city eyesore dubbed 'giant coloured barcode' called in by council leader

Designs for a revamp of the old city eyesore Brunel House
Designs for a revamp of the old city eyesore Brunel House
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PLANS to convert one of the Portsmouth biggest eyesore into student flats will be decided upon by councillors after 'serious safety concerns' were raised.

Brunel House, which sits on a prime location along The Hard, has remained derelict for years but fresh proposals to convert the 12-story former office building into 153 student flats surfaced this July.

The proposals are for a prior approval for office conversion and would have been decided upon by the city council without going to the planning committee if no objections had been raised.

However, Councillor Donna Jones, leader of the council, has called the decision in for the committee, expressing her misgivings over the proposals.

She said: 'Firstly, this is a missed opportunity to put a high-end four or five star hotel on the prime development site in the city.

'For years, we have been talking to the owners [property firm City Estates] regarding bringing forward hotelier bids and putting them in touch with developers.

'We managed to secure offers for the site but they were not interested and made clear that the intentions were to turn it into student flats or for the city council to purchase the building.'

The Conservative leader said the prices being talked about would have seen the city council asked to spend around £7m more on top of the market value price for the development site.

A compulsory purchase order has also been explored but Cllr Jones said that it would cost 'over a million' just to get a proposal in place before the purchase could even be decided.

Former proposals for the site include City Estates' 242-microflats plan that was scrapped last year and the ambitious 'Portsmouth Shard' project in 2012 that was rejected by councillors in 2015.

Cllr Jones maintained her view that student housing would be 'wholly inappropriate' for the site and that high-end housing options could be included as part of a hotel proposal and went on to criticize the designs for the building, labeling it a 'giant coloured barcode'.

She said: 'The design is just absolutely appalling. It looks like a very low-grade conversion. The building is also riddled with asbestos and it has had many internal fires in the past.

'We have serious concerns about its structure and it really is just a big blot on the landscape by the key gateway to the city.

'If it is approved, it will look like a giant coloured barcode and that is not good enough for Portsmouth.'