SEAFRONT residents fear Portsmouth could be known as the ‘wall front city’ if their views on a new multimillion-pound sea defence scheme are ignored.
More than 200 people packed into a meeting of the East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum last night – as Portsmouth City Council (PCC) chief executive David Williams defended the delay in a series of consultations.
Local people were poised to have their say on the so-called Southsea Coastal Scheme throughout February and March, but exhibitions were pushed back to the summer last month.
Reflecting on the postponement, Mr Williams said last night: ‘It was my decision to postpone the planned consultations and I am fairly unapologetic about that.
‘When I saw the material for the programme, I was not satisfied it was adequate to properly convey the options and proposals involved.’
Nearly 4,000 residents previously petitioned to have a greater say on the scheme’s design, after they were shown official illustrations featuring a concrete wall and rampart that would stretch from Long Curtain Moat to Eastney Barracks.
And while Mr Williams last night confirmed they would have a say when consultations come into play, albeit a ‘limited’ one, many were not satisfied – instead calling for an ‘open forum’.
Resident Lynne Nicholls said: ‘By holding the line with a wall, we will become known as the wall front city, not the great waterfront city.
‘The council is not engaging with us and we want a more open forum.’
Celia Clark, who also lives in Southsea, said: ‘They are supposed to be doing this on our behalf, but what David is failing to see is that we have expertise among us.
‘There are a lot of us and a so-called “limited” input won’t be enough.’
Appearing first on the meeting’s agenda, Mr Williams explained scheme bosses had been seeking ‘international’ case studies in drawing up prospective design plans – looking at existing defences in locations including the USA, Australia and the Netherlands.
He said PCC would be seeking £70m-80m from government for the scheme, with a view to submitting a planning application later this year.