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Here’s what Portsmouth has in store for the future

PUBLISHED: 16:04 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:04 25 September 2017

The Gunwharf Quays shopping centre (Photo by Theo Andrae)

The Gunwharf Quays shopping centre (Photo by Theo Andrae)

Archant

Famous for its world class maritime heritage, now a new vision of Portsmouth is being charted, with multi-million pound investment fuelling the island city’s 21st century ambitions. Viv Micklefield finds out what’s happening

Portsmouth calls itself The Great Waterfront City. And rightly so. Already 9.3 million visitors a year enjoy its towering attractions, its festivals and its miles of coast line. On top of this, the Good Growth for Cities report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, placed Portsmouth fourth in a list of the best 
cities in the UK in which to live and work. Now, with a combination of civic bids to attract government funding, and a partnership with its near neighbour Southampton, a new vision for Portsmouth is already appearing over the horizon, which taps into the city’s energy, creativity and hi-tech skills.


Transport

Portsmouth’s aspiration to become a European city break destination depends on good transport infrastructure, so this is being addressed by plans for a major new £36m road network. It includes a revamped motorway junction and a Park and Ride site with 600 spaces, as well as the replacement of Northern Road Bridge to reroute traffic entering the city. Meanwhile, anyone who recalls the old bus terminus at The Hard will be mesmerised by the transformation. More sci-fi than seaside, a transport interchange will meet the needs of bus, coach, train and Gosport Ferry travellers. And less than a mile away, Wightlink, the Isle of Wight carrier, is investing £45m in new ship and port facilities at its Gunwharf terminus; a two-tier boarding ramp speeding-up loading and unloading as well as reducing traffic congestion in the city.

Staying on the water, Portsmouth International Port expects to welcome several new debut cruises this year, a sign of the city’s increasing popularity as a stop-off for ocean going holidays. And the Royal Navy’s new £3.1 billion 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers will soon be dropping anchor at Her Majesty’s Naval Base, Portsmouth, creating an estimated 2000 new jobs.

Meanwhile, on dry land, a successful bid for local sustainable transport funding paves the way for extra dedicated cycle routes. 


Art and culture

As the birthplace of Charles Dickens, Hard Times are being overcome when it comes to investing in Portsmouth’s historic and future trail-blazers

One of the curtain raisers is the New Theatre Royal which following a £4.5 million rebuild of its glorious Matcham-designed Victorian auditorium, also has a brand new creative wing extension. Named after Isle of Wight-born film and theatre director Anthony Minghella, who died in 2008 aged 54, this partnership with the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, strengthens its ambitions to provide a world-class academic environment.

Meanwhile, Hotwalls has become an insprational quarter for artists and designer-makers. Housed within the historic Point Battery and Barracks, potters and printmakers rub shoulders with jewellery makers and textile artists, with the added attraction that buyers can see these creatives at work.

Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, welcomed its one millionth visitor to the £35m Mary Rose Museum just 28 months after it opened, and now a ten-year restoration battle is being fought to ensure Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory is shipshape. More city-wide heritage projects include the reopening of Cumberland House Natural History Museum with its enchanting Butterfly House, and the D-Day Museum’s £4.9m refurb supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund in readiness for the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings in 2019. Whilst across Southsea Common, and following a great deal of procrastination, £5m has been splashed out to bring the Grade II-listed South Parade Pier back to life.

Surely this adds-up to a winning bid as the UK’s 2021 City of Culture? 


Water sports

200 years ago, convicts departed from the Camber in Old Portsmouth bound for Australia. Today, one of its landmarks is Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing’s shiny new purpose-built headquarters. Relocating the entire team operation to Portsmouth is part of the grand plan to bring the America’s Cup home to Britain. And whilst the 2017 competition was a close-run affair, hopes are high that the city will in the future stage this major international spectacle. A tie-in with the 1851 Trust sees a Tech Deck and Education Centre giving young people first hand opportunities to learn more about the sport, innovation, technology and sustainability behind these amazing racing yachts.

No less significant for local sailing enthusiasts, are future plans for a water sports hub at Eastney. 


Environment

Nature conservationists will be keeping their binoculars trained on proposed enhancements to Portsmouth’s seven kilometres of seafront. The grandiosely entitled Seafront Masterplan includes new restaurants, cafés, open spaces and artworks, plus a hotel and conference centre. In the meantime, the City Council is planning 15 new urban meadows using flowers and plants to improve the cityscape’s appearance as well as attracting wildlife to these habitats. Milton Park and Queen Street are amongst the sites identified as part of this year’s Portsmouth in Bloom.

Additionally, a former landfill site between Port Solent and Horsea Island has been earmarked for a new 128-acre country park. Grass areas, wildflower meadows, footpaths and cycle routes will all feature, and there are hopes that one of Woodland Trust’s Diamond Woods will be planted here. 


Retail and residential

Having been voted one of the UK’s ugliest buildings, the demolition of the Brutalist designed Tricorn Centre in 2014 was applauded by many. Yet it’s taken well over a decade for agreement to be reached on the future of this prime brownfield site between Princess Royal Road and Cascades Shopping Centre. The latest idea, known as the City Centre North project, proposes shops, restaurants and bars, plus 2,600 new homes, with an estimated 9,700 permanent jobs created as a result.

The hope must be that it proves as successful as Gunwharf Quays. Shining like a beacon the iconic Emirates Spinnaker Tower attracts visitors and locals alike to the 90-plus designer outlet stores, eateries, bowling alley and cinema, casino and contemporary art gallery. Whilst the waterside real estate illustrates Portsmouth’s growing reputation as a property hotspot. 


Business

IBM UK, BAE Systems, Airbus and Anglepoise are just some of the major companies already based in Portsmouth and now Dunsbury Park, a 45-acre site at Hill Farm close to the A3, is expected to become a commercial gateway to the south of the city. Additionally, to the north, a City Deal bid in partnership with Southampton aims to secure £500 million for enterprise development at Tipner and Horsea Island. While £4.7m from the government’s SuperConnected Cities programme gives the green light to more public WIFI sites around Portsmouth, with grants available for businesses to upgrade to ultra-fast broadband.


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