Southsea sea defences: Council vows to keep trying to get cash for project after £10m bid rejected

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THE city council will continue to press for cash from a local funding body in order to protect homes from rising sea levels, despite describing the most recent rejection as 'disappointing.'

Portsmouth City Council's chief executive, David Williams, discussed a letter from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) detailing why it could not fund £10m for the Southsea sea defence scheme with councillors during a cabinet meeting this week.

Some of the latest designs for the Southsea sea defences

Some of the latest designs for the Southsea sea defences

Mr Williams said: 'I have to say I am very disappointed with it (the letter) and its tone. Although I do accept some of the the constraints are down to central government and not the LEP itself.

'We will continue to work with the LEP. Hopefully we will be able to find a way of writing to the LEP asking for funding in a way they will like.

'We don't want to fall out with them but do want a bit of give and take with them to get a project of this scale and complexity off the ground.'

READ MORE: Joint venture set to lead £100m Southsea sea defences scheme is unveiled

South Parade Pier

South Parade Pier

Without funding from the LEP the city council will have to pledge an additional £17m to ensure £107m from the Environment Agency is 'unlocked.' It is estimated the whole project will cost £131m - including contingency money.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting Councillor Lynne Stagg said: 'When I read the letter my first thought was "just let the city sink," which was incredibly sad.

'We want to release land to build more businesses and homes but unless we have the sea defences they will be underwater anyway.'

READ MORE: New pictures show the latest plans for Southsea’s proposed sea defences

Visualisations of the sea defences

Visualisations of the sea defences

The council's environment boss, Cllr Dave Ashmore, added: 'This work is so vital, this needs to be achieved.

'This is not just for Southsea, it's the city's waterfront.'

In a statement issued last week by the LEP it said the next deadline for funding applications was November, 29 2019.

A spokesman said: 'The Solent LEP remains very keen to receive an application from the council for funding for the scheme, which if submitted will be considered against the criteria for the fund, and represents an opportunity to build on our existing £128m programme of activity in the city.'

In our article 'Sea defences cash backlash' (The News, Saturday, October 5) we stated that after government funding was not made available for all investment priorities under the Solent LEP Growth Deal, the LEP was not able to establish a local fund to support infrastructure schemes. In fact the LEP was able to establish a local fund and we apologise for the error. The Solent LEP has a £128m programme of activity in the city, including investment to bring forward the Innovation and Collaboration Hub at the National Maritime Systems Centre, Future Technology Centre at the University of Portsmouth and upgrade of The Hard Interchange.