Leamington House in Somerstown
Leamington House in Somerstown

Back in February the administration decided that Leamington House and Horatia House in Somerstown would be demolished due to the excessive cost of making them safe following findings that they were not structurally sound.


As part of the decision to redevelop the area currently occupied by the two blocks and adjacent land, Portsmouth City Council asked local people and key stakeholder’s to give their views on what could be done to improve the area after the tower blocks were taken down.


Responding to the call for suggestions, Labour’s housing spokesperson Cllr Cal Corkery submitted proposals that we would like to see happen on the land. These fall under three main headings, the first being resident involvement.


The community engagement strategy put forward does seek to ensure the views of residents are considered at each stage of the development process.


Cllr Corkery added: “However, there is an important distinction to be made between consultation and involvement. Consultation is about asking people for their views and then taking these into account when making decisions. On the other hand, involvement means having residents actively engaged in the process of making those decisions, rather than it being just officers and consultants.


What I’d like to see is an opportunity for residents to be selected for, or ideally elected to, a project board through which they have involvement in the development throughout each stage of the process”.


The second area we think the council need to look at is the tenure mix of any new development, especially the use of precious public land being used for private sector development.


Speaking about the tenure mix, Cllr Corkery added:


“It seems likely that any development on the site will consist largely of residential units. The question then is what will be the tenure mix of those units. The council has already opened the door to the possibility of having a significant number of privately owned properties on the site.


I would question whether this is an appropriate use of finite public land. The private sector has consistently shown itself willing and capable to develop any piece of land around the city centre into student accommodation or private flats and I’m not convinced the local authority needs to enable further development of that type.


While the concept of a mixed development where social housing tenants are intermixed with private renters and owner occupiers is appealing in theory, in reality I suggest there is a strong likelihood that private flats in that area would be acquired by investors and rented out to students which would run contrary to the wishes of the local community.


The housing crisis presents us with an urgent need to do all we can to maximise the supply of new genuinely affordable socially rented homes and I would strongly urge that to be the case on this site”.


Thirdly, we think it’s important that the community resources currently available in many tower blocks across Portsmouth continue to be factored into any new development.


Encouraging the idea of incorporating community spaces within the new development, Cllr Corkery said;


“I have observed locally that on new council developments there do not seem to be the level of community resources offered on older estates.

In particular I am thinking of the provision of community rooms for residents of that block/estate to use. Lots of the community rooms in my ward are well used by residents and provide an invaluable opportunity for those who are unable to venture wider into the community to engage socially with their friends and neighbours.


With this in mind I would propose that some form of multi-functional communal space for residents is included as part of the development on this site”.

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