Currently one of the most contentious planning proposals in the city is the proposed new home for Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup headquarters, located on The Camber in Old Portsmouth. The story has been developing quickly over recent weeks and we have heard people’s opinions on both sides through messages on our Facebook and with emails. I think there is no doubt that having the city home to one of the best sailing teams in the World would be a huge boost to the city on many levels, be that employment, new skills and prestige. Personally I think the plans for the building are striking too, a new landmark for Portsmouth and also a symbol of the city’s development for every single passenger of every continental and IOW ferry that leaves and arrives in the harbour.
Concerning the design, which will fill much of the current Camber carpark, it is safe to say that this modern structure wrapped in curved ‘sails’ caught in a strong wind will cause controversy due to the close proximity of the historic Point and the streets of the Old Portsmouth district. Personally, I think architecture in these situations can work in two ways, either feel in keeping with the existing period design or be the opposite, a meeting of diametrically opposed styles that work together, combining the heritage of the city with dynamic contemporary architectural design. This has worked in numerous significant developments in recent years (even intimately such as the Great Court at the British Museum)…in a way this bringing together of the two styles can be representative of a city wishing to celebrate its heritage yet strike new ground with a view to the future too. Despite there still being questions regarding issues such as public access to the very popular Bridge Tavern (maybe the idea of the return of the bridge over the water isn’t a joke after all?) and the problem of parking in an area designed long before the car, the change of use from an area once piled high with power station coal could help power the city in new ways.
It seems like opinion is once again polarised from this development, in recent days councillors of all political persuasions have come out in support of the proposal plus a planning committee has also shown support yet many local residents are raising concern about possible problems with the proposal. Strangely pre-development work has already broken ground on the site too with businesses moving location to make way for the new building. A little worrying considering no formal approval has been given, but if the local businesses are happy about the changes, maybe that is a move in the right direction if a little presumptive. For me…it was important to see what opinion the Portsmouth Society might have on the issue and last week saw them also show support too. With that support in place and with Ben Ainslie’s apparent desire to choose Portsmouth over two sites in Southampton it looks very positive.
There is a consultation meeting this evening at 7.30pm at Cathedral House (next to Portsmouth Cathedral), after the first was postponed due to too many people arriving for the space available. At the meeting Sir Ben Ainslie will be making a presentation of the proposal in person and people are encouraged to attend to both raise any concerns but also to show local support for the plans. The final planning consent decision is very quickly approaching and the building is planned to start very soon so we could be seeing the very best racing yachts in Portsmouth Harbour and out on The Solent in the very near future.
One real concern regarding this development is if it will have any detrimental impact on the ARTches project, I would really hope that this local area is able to take both developments on and the council will ensure that this doesn’t become a situation where they only offer one out of the two large scale changes to the Old Portsmouth area to appease residents.
There is a petition showing support for the proposal, you can find out about it HERE.