Our resident satirist, Claire Denise Udy, reports on a bizarre twist in the saga of the new Solent Authority.
The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Trump, today announced plans for the soon-to-be defunct grounds of St James’ Hospital to be bulldozed, and the Solent City headquarters to be built in their place. The HQ will administer the new Solent Authority, which unifies Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight. St James’s Hospital, which was opened as an insane asylum in 1879, has been a medical facility ever since. In 2014, the Solent NHS Trust announced plans to move all services to different sites, which prompted rumours of a housing development arising in its place because land that isn’t being used by the NHS has to be sold on.
In an exclusive interview with Star & Crescent, Cllr Trump spoke of her excitement about the plans.
‘To have the headquarters for the Solent devolution deal right here in Portsmouth will put us on the map. Portsmouth City Council has already set up a great website plus Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and MySpace pages explaining all about the Solent deal. We’re putting the plans up today, and hope the city can get behind me as we try and show Southampton that we can build the better headquarters, which will look even smarter than that Ikea the Lib Dems lost for us all that time ago.’
The plans include building retail units, leisure amenities and a prestigious conference centre, which will house brand new Council chambers. Cllr Trump says that ‘big names’ have already shown their intention to invest.
‘Woolworths, Allders, BHS and Phones4U just to name a few. Richard Branson has also talked about having the first of the soon-to-be resurrected Virgin Megastores within the complex.’
Also mooted are an indoor ski slope and a ‘world class’ velodrome.
Cllr Trump’s remarks have caused controversy in some quarters. Keep Milton Green, a non-political activist group, have expressed dismay over the plans. Milton resident and local activist Kim Barrett said, ‘We just want our bit of earth. Portsmouth is one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, and we are losing open space at an exponential rate. Keep Milton Green has been against any kind of development and believes that new housing would be preferable to Mrs Jones’s monstrosity. The traffic here is already bad and there will be gridlock on Eastern Road down to Milton all day, every single day. And then there is the damage to the local environment to consider.’
Cllr Trump has countered that the whole development will be carbon neutral, as little trees will be distributed amongst the proposed new structures.
When quizzed about the traffic chaos that might ensue, Cllr Trump said, ‘We can use the Park and Ride in Tipner, that’s for starters. The other plan is to introduce a “Park and Sail” from Southampton. This may be a 45 minute journey from the docks but it will take a lot less time than trying to navigate Portsmouth traffic during commuter and weekend times. At the end of the day, Portsmouth should be the rightful home of the Solent devolution deal, and I’m going out of my way to make sure this will happen.’
When questioned about whether her plans for the Solent City HQ were in any way connected to a desire to be the Conservative candidate for joint mayor, Cllr Trump’s reply was brief. ‘Yes, I’d like to be mayor, and no tree is going to stop me.’
Photography by Moshe Tasky