THE future of a hospital site has been put in the hands of a community following a campaign to save it from being built on.
Residents have been fighting to stop more than 400 new homes on the sprawling St James’ Hospital site and parkland in Milton, now that it is surplus to NHS requirements.
They argue the proposal would add to traffic problems and that nearby roads and schools would not cope.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt has announced a deal between the NHS – which owns part of the site – and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), a government organisation set up to create homes and businesses.
But Ms Mordaunt says housing is not inevitable because the city’s housing target has already been reached. She said decisions will be placed in the hands of residents through a planning forum and £14,000 has been set aside to put together neighbourhood plan.
‘It is clear that the residents in the local area want to be able to plan their community,’ said Ms Mordaunt. ‘Now we have secured a transfer they can, either through direct engagement with the HCA or via a neighbourhood forum or both.
‘They can have direct input to produce a master plan for the area. This will protect against developers picking off parts of the site to cram in housing, or parts of the site being subject to planning blight due to the costs of infrastructure being so high.’
But Janice Burkinshaw, chairman of the Milton Neighbourhood Forum, said it is not clear how this will work.
‘Our hope is still that the council will buy the site and that the Harbour School will be kept on the site and the rest kept for health and educational purposes.
‘We do not want any housing. It is a parkland setting and it is ideal for buildings that have a therapeutic purpose.’
Milton Liberal Democrat, Councillor, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, also met with the HCA at the site last week and said he will not be satisfied until the entire site – including the land owned by the University of Portsmouth – is under HCA control.
Ms Mordaunt, who is working alongside Portsmouth South Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Flick Drummond, said she expects the rest of the land to be transferred to the HCA.