Fight for more affordable new homes in Portsmouth begins

A CGI image of what the new development on land adjacent to the Queen's Hotel in Southsea could look like
A CGI image of what the new development on land adjacent to the Queen's Hotel in Southsea could look like
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ENOUGH is enough, councillors have said about developers failing to provide affordable housing in the city.

At a planning committee yesterday they rejected amendments made by developers of the Queen’s Hotel site in Southsea to repreive them of having to make any of the proposed flats affordable.

Instead Portsmouth City councillors voted unanimously to appeal the case with the government planning inspectorate, believing there to be a strong enough case to prove developers would still make profit.

As part of a £7m scheme developers were set to convert the hotel on Clarence Parade into apartments as well as build two new blocks of flats nearby. In keeping with the council’s policy 30 per cent of the flats would have to be classified as affordable, which was agreed by both parties in 2017.

However, the project sparked controversy in January this year when developers cancelled a planning meeting at the last minute, opting to go straight to the inspectorate with the claim they could not make profit by making the homes affordable.

Yesterday councillors lambasted that decision, stating that if the flats were not affordable the council should be entitled to more than the £333,043 compensation originally offered as the development’s viability assessment was incorrect.

Cllr Steve Pitt said: ‘For the assessment they take the first letters and the last number of the postcode and work out an average of property values in that area. But that is ridiculous, it doesn’t tell you what these specific flats could be worth.

‘We may be able to challenge it. We might set a precedent to get justice for the people living here and to hold developers to account, to make sure they provide the housing they should be providing.

‘I think we have got a chance of winning.’

St Jude ward representative, Cllr Judith Smyth, agreed. She said: ‘I think we must absolutely stick to our policy. In my ward there is little affordable housing and people are having to live in expensive properties when wages in restaurants and bars, of which there are a lot in that area, don’t pay well.’

The committee’s chair, Cllr Hugh Mason, proposed that they fight the amendments. ‘For 40 years I have sat on this committee and we have been told by developers it is this or nothing. We need to call their bluff. This committee is about being independent,’ he said.

Although Cllr Jeanette Smith voted in favour of the proposal she added: ‘Affordable housing to them (developers) isn’t what it is to us. The term has to mean something. Sometimes I’d rather take the money to build social housing.

‘I am in full support of this but we should use the money for social housing. Enough is enough.’

The council will need to gather evidence of their case in preparation for the appeal. It is thought this might not take place until November this year.

Members of the public will also  be able to have their say when the appeal goes to a hearing.