The urban future of Portsmouth was the title of a breakfast conference this month hosted by the University for local leaders, industry and alumni to discuss the strategic view from the council and the 'University Masterplan'.
There were some distinguished speakers and some bright ideas - but when you focus on what was proposed for Portsmouth, the bad news was that the picture above is wholly inappropriate, there were no new ideas and some very tired proposals totally lacking in cohesion were wheeled out once again.
On the positive, the whole was presented under the umbrella of 9 strategies each of which sounded appealing:
The 1st 8 of these are what any forward looking community would aspire to, but unfortunately, the vision presented by the speaker from the council was, as one delegate subsequently reported, "very much the same as Paul Ramshaw consulted the Portsmouth Society about around 15 years ago when he was the City's urban planner and that is 2 generations back - wonder how many Cities China has built in that time……….. " and the detail behind many of these points was at best superficial and at worst wholly inappropriate when looking at the needs of the wider community. (Editors Note: China has built over 500 'empty cities' in the past 15 years, and in a corporate environment that period is 3-4 generations)
Point 9 was once again, the Uni's plea for all the arterial roads which it straddles to mysteriously disappear and allow the students free access from one area of the Uni to another.
In the real world, Portsmouth needs to take the bull by the horns and admit that whilst in 15-25 years time, autonomous vehicles may solve our congestion problems, in the interim we either need to focus on making the arterial flows more efficient or risk a perhaps fatal sclerosis, and the Uni needs to accept that if they want grade level crossings with students taking priority over traffic in Anglesea Road or Winston Churchill Avenue, then they need to think about which parts of their estate could be exchanged for alternate routings as the cars are not going away and whilst the Uni is a major employer, it cannot take priority over the many thousands of others who have to use these routes to get.to and from their work every day.
The bad news was that housing of any form did not get a mention other than a suggestion that a redeveloped city centre should have a greater density of housing than it does now and units would need to be more compact. Given that the city had a target of adding 8,000 new dwellings under the PUSH plans and this could be pushed up to 16,000 under current proposals, it is logical that this type of simplistic conclusion is drawn, but we have too few jobs in the city so for a large proportion of the population, their commute takes them out of the city. An extra 16,000 dwellings without significant new jobs on the island will exacerbate this problem which brings us back to the total lack of a viable transport strategy - if only the East-West route had not been cancelled in the 60's we might not be starting from such a bad position today.
What is needed is a cohesive and interconnected picture linking where we are now with where we hope to be, with the necessary steps between the two simply articulated - unfortunately, it appears that no one wants to invest the time or the intellectual capital which is a loss for everyone who lives in or makes their living from the city.
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