On Tuesday evening, Cllr. Robert New invited all Portsmouth City Councillors to a project briefing. The briefing was well attended and further briefings are being held for those who could not attend next week.
- Initial plans started over a decade ago, going back to before 2005 to address the problem of failing sea defences in Southsea.
- In 2010, a decision by the Full Council was taken to proceed with drawing up what new sea defences might look like in order to put in a bid to central government.
-The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership was created in 2011, working with Portsmouth City Council, Havant, Gosport and Fareham borough councils.
- Around the same time, a report was prepared with a list of all options and over the years between 2011 and 2015, an outline study was prepared. A steering group was created to explore and reduce the options to a short list, which was then presented to the public in 2014 at four different public open days held at the D-Day Museum, The Square Tower and The Royal Beach Hotel. Extensive consultation was undertaken with partners.
- The City Council started to explore funding opportunities for the new sea defences.
- Because it became clear that the cost of the scheme would be outside of Government Department spending limits, the Treasury has to give sign off on this scheme (over £100m) and releasing money.
- As previously mentioned, public consultation on shortlisted sea defence style options took place across 8 weeks and over four open days.
- 85.8% of respondents supported the options which had formed the short list for the new sea defence scheme.
- It must be stressed that the 'short list' is conceptual. The final design does not yet exist. The preferred option is to have either step of slopes (where needed) and a second wall of varying height, set back from the prom (Exact position and height is still to be decided).
- Earlier this month, the Government agreed to release £5.9 million to proceed to start the design work for the scheme, which involves appointing designers to work up the final scheme.
- A full business case must be presented with a comprehensive design by early to mid-2018. And this is why Cllr. Morgan MP's ill thought out intervention could of jeopardised the entire scheme.
- Once the design work has progressed, it will be presented to the public and stakeholders via public consultation. Designers will then review the feedback, ideas and concerns to create the final design. The final design will need to go to public consultation again and a planning application submitted.
- If the planning application is approved, more than £70m will be given to start construction. Construction needs to begin ideally in 2019.
To confirm, there will not be a 3.8 meter wall along the seafront. No final design for the sea defences exist. The designers have just been appointed in the last 72 hours and we're excited to see how they proceed.
Next steps and communicating with the public.
The first of a series of regular newsletters has just been signed off and delivered to all households in Southsea.
Continue to keep elected members of Portsmouth City Council up to speed, including an open invitation into the project centre at any time.
The Eastern Coastal Partnership will be adding information and presentations to their website for this scheme as the project progresses.
Public consultation will take place (ideally by the end of 2017).
There will be opportunities and presentations for local communities.
Councillors will be empowered with materials to help them communicate with their residents directly about the scheme.
It was stressed that at every stage, this whole process has had full cross party support from all Councillors. Portsmouth City Council has had to assure Government of that cross-party support at every stage of the scheme to date and will need to continue to so. If that ceases to be the case, it could jeopardise the project, which is ultimately a project to protect thousands of homes and businesses across the area.
Below: Cllr. Robert New and Donna Jones on Boxing Day, 2015 when the sea defences failed by the Pyramids and left a huge hole on the promenade. The sea defences are at the end of their life.