Row breaks out between Labour and Conservatives over plan for Southsea's sea defences
A ROW has broken out between politicians over plans to allocate millions in funding to a sea defences project for Southsea.
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, wrote to the Sajid Javid, the Secretary of Stage for local government on Wednesday to call for the Treasury to hold back £5.9m in funding which had been allocated for Portsmouth City Council’s project.
The Labour MP called for the funding to be put on hold to allow more time for an alternative option to the scheme to be explored, following concerns from residents in the constituency regarding the current plans for the seafront.
Councillor Rob New, the council’s cabinet member for environment has hit out, calling Mr Morgan’s intervention as ‘bizarre.’
The funds had been donated for the project to carry out detailed design work into the scheme which could include a sloped revetment.
An alternative scheme, previously revealed by The News, would be to create a sea dyke on the common, transforming the landscape to create dunes on the seafront, which has been suggested by University of Portsmouth lecturer Walter Menteth.
Mr Morgan wrote in his letter: ‘I share the concern of many of my constituents that this project appears to have been rushed through without due consideration nor sufficient public consultation.
‘Many in the local community have expressed a preference for a soft rather than hard engineering option, noting the aesthetic and environmental impact of the latter, and are concerned that the possibility of such a solution has not been properly entertained.’
He had written to the council’s chief executive to ascertain facts about the council scheme ahead of sending the letter and the city’s MPs will receive a briefing next week.
Cllr New said: ‘To just try to stop the funds for this desperately needed project being awarded is just bizarre and so I am pleased that the Secretary of State will not be delaying our funding as a result of this ill-thought-our intervention.'
The Conservative councillor stated that no contract for construction had yet been awarded with design work on the council’s scheme set to take place ahead of a public consultation planned for the end of the year.
He added: ‘We are starting regular communications for the public as the scheme enters into its next exciting phase and a full communications plan will be created with the designers once they are in place.’
Mr Morgan said in response to Cllr New’s comments: ‘I have always said I will be Portsmouth’s voice at Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Portsmouth. Residents have shared with me their concerns about Southsea sea defences and it is important these plans are got right.
‘Sadly though, this is another example of Tories not communicating important plans to local people. Too often the Tories think they can go about doing things as they please with a total disregard to the people of Portsmouth. I am pleased as a result of the community’s actions and my pressure on the council and government, we will be given a chance to have our say.’
An exhibition at Portsmouth Cathedral has been extended until next Wednesday for people to view Mr Menteth’s designs for new sea defences.