Solent LEP hits back over £17m Portsmouth sea defence funding gap

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A FUNDING organisation has hit back at claims it is refusing to provide cash for ‘vital’ sea defences – saying there was no cash available from government.

Portsmouth councillors revealed a predicted funding gap of £17m for the mammoth Southsea sea defence scheme, which is now expected to cost around £131m.

Visualisations of the sea defences

Visualisations of the sea defences

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson branded actions of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as ‘extremely disappointing’ as he revealed the group had failed to produce £10m for the project.

As reported, a spokesman for the LEP said it was ‘unable to comment on individual funding applications’.

The organisation, which offers funding for projects across the region, then issued a statement two days later.

A spokesman from the LEP said: ‘The Solent LEP has identified the Southsea coastal flood defence scheme as a priority investment for the area since 2016 and included the project within our submission to government for additional funding through the Solent growth deal.

‘Unfortunately, funding was not made available by government to support all of the investment priorities within our growth deal submission and, in response to this, the Solent LEP was able to establish a local fund to support infrastructure schemes of this nature.’

He added: ‘Portsmouth City Council submitted a bid to the Solent LEP during 2018 which was considered and feedback was provided to the council to advise that the Solent LEP board remained of the view that this was a key project for the area which we continued to support and encouraged the council to submit an application when the scope of the project was fully defined.

‘The most recent deadline for funding through our Solent prosperity fund passed on September 27, 2019 and, as it stands, Portsmouth City Council has not yet resubmitted the project to us.’

The next deadline to seek funding for the LEP is November 29.

However, the council needs to submit a full business case needs to the Environment Agency by October 23 in order to ‘unlock’ a £107m grant for the scheme.

The case needs to prove that the remaining £24m needed is available. Without the funding from the LEP, this has been pledged by Portsmouth City Council.

If funding is found and planning permission is granted it is hoped work will begin in spring 2020.