THE PEOPLE living closest to two tower blocks Portsmouth City Council is replacing with hundreds of brand new homes have taken another chance to have their say on the latest plans for the site.
Architects, lighting experts and council teams were on hand to answer questions from local residents at a pop-up Covid-safe public engagement event in a disused underground car park in the centre of the development site.
Watch a two minute video of the event below, in which local people shared their views on the latest proposals for what could replace Horatia and Leamington Houses, in Earlsdon Street, and Meriden Road, Somerstown.
Portsmouth demolition specialist Hughes and Salvidge has started carefully bringing down the 1960s buildings from the top down and a design team from Karakusevic Carson Architects is helping the council to masterplan for the redevelopment of the site.
The council has committed to replacing the blocks with a minimum of the 272 council-owned homes that will be lost as well as improving green open space, play areas and community facilities. This will be part of a high quality, sustainable, mixed-use urban neighbourhood that is attractive to residents and works well with the surrounding area.
Lawrence Grey lives next to the blocks. “I recently moved to the area,” he explained.
“I popped down today because I’ve got a young family and I just wanted to see that they’ve got somewhere for the young kids to grow up and enjoy themselves and they’ve got stuff to do around the area rather than just being cooped up indoors.”
The council’s director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services James Hill said: “We want local people to be part of the design process and we think this is a step towards them being able to say ‘do you know what – I had a part to play in what comes next’.”
Local people were invited to Melbourne Place car park, in the middle of the two blocks, to find out how far the early plans have come along, to use an interactive hands-on model, to chat with the design team and to take part in a lighting workshop with design experts Light Follows Behaviour, who are helping to plan how the redeveloped site could work.
Somerstown resident Anna Potten said: “I’m very impressed by the consultation and the commitment to consultation the council have put in.”
Cllr Darren Sanders, cabinet member for Housing and Homelessness, said: “At the heart of all of this is that we want to make this area better for the people who live here. It’s as simple as that.
“We will continue to make a massive effort to make sure that local people have a chance to tell us how they experience this area and how they think it can be improved.”
The event also included a pop-up outdoor conference room, which was the venue for the latest meeting of the Horatia and Leamington Houses community panel – a team of local people, resident groups, schools, businesses and charities at the centre of the deconstruction and redevelopment project.
The council launched the community panel in March 2021 following a major public engagement in summer 2019 in which thousands of local people were asked what they wanted to happen to the site.
The community panel has been meeting once a month and is at the centre of the deconstruction and redevelopment project. The panel includes local people, residents groups, schools, businesses and charities.
Community panel member Jan Dod, who is also a member of Somerstown residents association PATCH, said: “I’m most impressed with how the space is being reconfigured to allow lots of green space, play space and housing. I mean it’s just exciting.”
Kieren Majhail, associate architect at Karakusevic Carson Architects, said: “To be able to ask people questions and get their direct feedback is brilliant. It’s the best way to do things.”
Everybody who arrived at the outdoor event had their temperature measured and recorded with a digital thermometer gun. All guests were also given masks and hand sanitiser and had their phone numbers recorded for track and trace purposes as well as being offered protective gloves.
If you would like to join the community panel; call development delivery manager Mary Devaney on 023 9284 1791 or email firstname.lastname@example.org