HUNDREDS of people have shared their thoughts on plans for the Southsea sea defences, attending consultations and filling out questionnaires, and now it's in the council's hands to make what is undeniably, an incredibly important decision
Public consultations opened in early July and have set up camp in village halls, community centres and churches across the city including Eastney, Anchorage Park, Cosham and Southsea as well as yesterday's final session in Fratton.
Comprehensive plans and videos were displayed at each event detailing proposals for the sea front from Long Curtain Moat to Eastney Barracks that will protect more than 8,000 homes from flooding in the future.
Now that the consultations have closed, members of the public will have until the end of August to submit any more thoughts on the plans before the options are discussed by the council's cross-party group.
Cllr Dave Ashmore, the council's environment boss, explained the next step. He said: 'The team have had a brilliant response from the public, with over 1,500 people visiting them so far. There have been lots of great questions and they are now looking forward to analysing the feedback that has been given.
'The survey will remain open until the August 27 so residents still have plenty of time to have their say, with all the consultation materials and videos available on the scheme's website.
'Once the feedback has been analysed, a cross-party working group will review the evidence and make a decision on which options to take forward. The team will hold further public exhibitions before seeking planning permission towards the end of this year, where residents will be able to give further feedback.'
READ MORE: Why is the work needed?
Generally feedback from the public has been positive so far with many impressed by the project’s bitesized approach that broke down eight areas of the frontage with tailor-made defences designed for each of them.
The eight sections were divided up as: Long Curtain Moat, Clarence Pier, Southsea Common, Southsea Castle, the Pyramids Centre, South Parade Pier, Canoe Lake Park and Eastney Esplanade.
READ MORE: What will the sea defences look like?
A few of these had more than one proposal outlined, giving residents the option of voting for their preferred option through the questionnaires.
Yesterday's consultation was just as busy as those that preceded it with many residents eager to have their say.
Christine Lipcar, 70, from Fratton said: 'I think we have got to think about our future generations because it could save their lives. A lot of people don't like change but if it is for the benefit of the town it needs to be done.
‘The only issue I have is just the fact that you won’t be able to see the sea at the pier. Also parking might be a problem.
‘I wasn’t told about this by the council. I found out from a friend. But I do think it is good that we have got to come and have a look at this all.’
Her friend Yvonne Draper, 65, from Hilsea had a couple of concerns about one of the designs. She said: 'The only bit I wasn't sure about was either side of South Parade Pier which is the only part of the seafront you won't be able to see the sea from. But I could live with that knowing that for the rest of the seafront the view will still be there.
‘There are also issues with the parking and that might stop some people being able to come to the seafront.’
Speaking about the two options for the defences at South Parade Pier, she added: ‘If I had a choice between them I would rather have the one that lowers the promenade and offers steps to the beach. Although I’d hope they won't put retail along there because it might look tacky.’
Southsea resident, Jenie Stoat, 34, was also worried about this. 'I have got mixed views,' she said.
'I often run along the seafront but some people aren't able to do that. They drive down, but now they might not be able to see the sea.
‘It is good that we have got to see how it could look. I don’t want anything that is so unwelcoming, like a load of concrete.
'I also think more should've been done to involve the public. I received a leaflet about this but my mum didn't. And I am not on Facebook so I miss out on a lot of communication. I found that a lot of people I spoke to didn’t know about it.’
The sea defence project, which is being delivered by Portsmouth City Council and its partners in the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership, is expected to cost more than £100m. The council aims to apply for planning permission by the end of this year.
READ MORE: Who will pay for the defences?
There is still time to have your say with surveys available on the scheme’s website .