'That couldn’t be further from the truth': Portsmouth chief dismisses fears of Hilsea training home becoming housing development

Andy Cullen has strongly dismissed concerns that Pompey have ambitions to convert their Hilsea training home into a housing development.

Thursday, 24th February 2022, 12:30 pm

Instead the Blues’ chief executive insists the club are driving ahead with plans for Roko gym renovations as well as fulfilling long-term aspirations to improve footballing facilities.

Pompey owners Tornante purchased the Copnor Road venue in June 2021 for £2m, having previously long-term leased the area.

Subsequently, Roko is scheduled to be rebranded as the Pompey Health And Fitness Club this spring following major improvements.

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Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Portsmouth City Council House and Economic land availability plan has identified a section of the venue for potential housing.

On an extensive list, other areas identified include Kingston Crescent police station, the City Records Office, Gladys Avenue Laundry, the Good Companion pub, and The News Centre.

Yet Cullen is adamant there are currently no plans for Pompey’s training ground to be used for housing.

Pompey chief executive Andy Cullen has moved to reassure fans that owners Tornante have not bought Roko to become a housing development. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He told The News: ‘If there’s a fear that the owners have bought Roko to put houses all over it, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘We haven't bought Roko to develop houses right across the whole site, let me make that clear.

‘The situation is, the council have an obligation to build so many houses over the next few years – and there’s a shortage of sites at the moment.

‘I know in the last couple of weeks there have been some positive developments in terms of availability on the Tipner site which will go a long way to helping them meet those targets.

The Portsmouth City Council House and Economic land availability plan lists Roko at entry number 111

‘However, they are in a situation where they must identify different sites around the city, which could potentially be houses on some of that (Roko) land.

‘Some time ago there was a potential small strip on the left-hand side of the car park area as you come in. That was something way in place before we bought Roko.

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‘It’s purely the council identifying from what they know of sites around the city as to where availability lies. It goes all around Portsmouth, you can see other areas identified.

‘It is entirely our say whether we choose to develop it, but, at the moment, there is no planning application going in.

‘This is purely historical identification of land from previous discussions with the council which will have gone on over time.

‘It may well be that we retain that section of land, I don’t know, but for us it’s about developing the site for football. That’s our priority.’

Pompey moved into their Copnor Road training ground in December 2014, following a period without a permanent training home.

Previously they occupied the Wellington Sports Ground in Eastleigh, until their eviction in January 2013 during ongoing financial issues.

Now they are well settled in Hilsea, with ambition to considerably improve facilities.

Cullen added: ‘I am not saying whether that (council plans) will or will not happen, but haven’t bought Roko to develop it for housing.

‘If there is a way of co-existing which doesn’t compromise us in terms of what we want to do on pitches, then who knows where that goes down the line. I wouldn’t rule that out.

‘It may well accelerate things for us, in terms of the investment we need to make a dome and have sand pitches over soil pitches, all the things we want to do to develop that particular site.

‘If we could expand the site and get some extra land then we’d certainly be up for that as well.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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