THE decision to demolish a 'dire' former bar has created a rift between Portsmouth councillors.
At yesterday's planning, regeneration and economic development meeting the proposal to knock down Drift in the City on Isambard Brunel Road in Landport was approved by Lib Dem head of regeneration, Cllr Ben Dowling.
As part of the £155,000 plan the area will be levelled and turned into a walkway in a bid to increase public space and improve access to Victoria Park. It is also hoped it will 'enhance the setting' of the Grade-II listed cenotaph and war memorial in Guildhall Square.
But former council leader, Tory Cllr Donna Jones, lambasted the move claiming it to be 'short-sighted.'
She said: 'I don't support the officer's recommendation to demolish this building mostly because we haven't heard back from the Heritage Lottery Fund bid for Victoria Park.
'Had that been secured it would be different. I'd like to see a much bigger masterplan for the area.
'And the building is estimated to be worth between £300-£400,000, which is generous because it is in a bad state of repair. But it is a big space and it is worth doing up.
'Here we have a proposal to spend £150,000 to make a walkway when we could make £300,000 on it, or make £75,000 a year renting it out.'
Officers explained that only three potential buyers had come forward in recent years, and all of them were put off by the amount of work that would be needed to make it usable.
Cllr Dowling cited this when reaching his decision. He said: 'This is one of those items we have to agree to disagree about. We (the Lib Dems) are very keen on creating places people want to live and work in and visit.
'Of course I am completely in favour of building homes for local people but this isn't possible here.
'This is something that has been talked about for a number of years. We have had tenants try to come in and make use of the site. I appreciate your point of view and understand where you're coming from. I am confident this is the right way foward.'
But speaking outside of the meeting Cllr Jones added: 'This is another poor financial decision by the Lib Dems that started with the evacuation of Horatia and Leamington House which will cost the best part of £100m.
'They have wasted £3m doing away with Victory Energy. The decision to knock down Drift will lose them £75,000 a year. It simply can't continue.'
Drift in the City closed in 2003. The demolition is expected to be carried out before Christmas this year.