Forum objection to St James Phase 2 development

The Milton Neighbourhood Planning Forum objects to the Planning Application for 230 new Dwellings and 485 Car-spaces at St James’ Hospital.

1) There is no “Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development” anywhere in Portsmouth by virtue of the Chichester & Langstone Harbour (and other Special Protection Areas around Portsmouth’s coast) wildlife habitats constraints. This scheme is not proposing Sustainable Development compliant with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It undermines the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan’s objectives. It is not balancing environmental and social needs with landowners and developers financial motives.

2) It misapplies Policy MT4 in the current Portsmouth Plan because it fails to comply with  qualifications on local highway constraints and the intentions of MT4 requiring the integrity and appearance of the building to be preserved.

3) The absence of highway capacity and other infrastructure was identified in the 2017 Issues and Options for the emerging Portsmouth Plan 2021-2036 prevents the intensification of development proposed

4) The proposed number of 485 car-spaces is excessive and goes well beyond current guidance on parking standards by 37% and exceeds the emerging standards by 80%. Such a scale undermines PCC’s ability to achieve a “Net Zero Carbon Emissions” target.    5) Exposure of local residents to higher levels of air pollution created by increased congestion on the local highway creates an unacceptable risk of harm to human health.

6) There is no use of renewable energy in contravention of National Planning Policy which also undermines PCC’s intentions to be “Zero Carbon” by 2030.

7) There is harm to the setting of the Grade II Listed Hospital implicit in the Heritage Assessment which identifies pre-1909 structures as “Significant” and says there will be a degree of heritage harm to the designed grounds and the asylum buildings.

8) The Health Impact Assessment’s conclusions are false.

9) The total quantum of “Affordable” Housing is non-compliant with Portsmouth Plan Policy PCS19 and the 2019 “Providing Affordable Homes in Portsmouth” Brief.

10) The proposed use increases stresses on the community infrastructure such as schools and community facilities as recognised in the 2017 “Issues and Options” to the emerging Portsmouth Plan 2021-2036. Existing Policy MT4 proposes continued use as a Hospital, Residential Training or Education. Health and Education uses would help address local deficits, generate employment and help reduce car-dependency and are therefore more appropriate.

1) Absence of any “Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development” and Non-compliance with the NPPF and UK’s 25 Year Environment Plan

The increases in recreational stresses on the environmentally sensitive habitats in Langstone Harbour created by future residents in housing developments on St James’ Hospital is not addressed in the Milton Common Restoration Framework (see paragraph 5.5 therein).

Paragraph 177 of the NPPF states the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the plan or project is “likely to have a significant effect on a habitats site” (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects), unless an appropriate assessment has concluded that the plan or project will not adversely affect the integrity of the habitats site.

The designation of Langstone Harbour as a Special Protection Area for habitat conservation in 1987 has not prevented recreational stresses from the population expansion of Portsmouth and the surrounding areas. As a result, Negative Impacts on the Langstone Harbour SPA over many years has required PCC to create “Mitigation” measures to reduce the harm. The current “Mitigation” (the “Bird Tax”) is an “Interim Strategy”.

It has become apparent these measures are ineffective. Current data shows that only 18% of Langstone Harbour is in “favourable condition”. In other words 82% is not “favourable”. Therefore the applicant cannot rely on any assumption his development will have no significant effect on local habitats through the payment of a “Bird Tax”. All he can do is hope. Hope isn’t good enough.

The withholding of residential planning permissions on residential schemes imposed by Natural England in 2019 to reduce eutrophication in the Harbour from excessive nitrate concentrations is being addressed by schemes to avoid increasing the nitrate burden. Rather than resolving the actual cause from over-development effecting a sensitive environment PCC’s response is to create an “”Interim Nutrient Neutral Mitigation Strategy” which proposes “Mitigation Credits”, “Off-setting” and taking agricultural land elsewhere out of intensive farming reliant on nitrogen fertilisers.

The applicant accepts he is not proposing a solution. Instead he explains there is to be further negotiation with PCC and Natural England. Special Protection Areas were designated to protect wildlife habitats. “Interim Mitigations” imply harm can be reduced. The UK’s 25 Year Environment Plan goal is to improve wildlife habitats (as well as our air, and our water quality). “Mitigation” is not improvement! We want to see an improvement to the water quality in Langstone Harbour, not hope the applicant can successfully negotiate a compromise.

2) Misapplication of Policy MT4 for St James’ Hospital 

This application proposes to re-use a Victorian Grade II Listed Hospital with 230 dwellings accommodating  approximately 550 residents and 485 car-spaces. It proposes replacing a hospital in the most densely populated City in England . We have 5,400 residents/sq km but we do not have sufficient healthcare facilities to support it.

The scale of development is excessive. It is an intensification of a residential use beyond the capacity of the local highway network to accommodate it. The application is therefore contrary to the current Portsmouth Plan Policy MT4.

Policy MT4, drafted for the 2001-2011 Portsmouth Plan and carried over to the current one, explicitly constrains the options for the redevelopment of the Grade 11 Listed Hospital. It qualifies it’s re-use whether as a Hospital or conversion to a residential training centre; education or for housing, by requiring the re-use to preserve the integrity and appearance of the building. Critically MT4 also qualifies these re-uses by inserting the constraint, subject to the surrounding highway network being able to satisfactorily accommodate the additional traffic generation.

3) Absence of Capacity on the Local Highway Network 

The Transport Evidence Paper produced by Systra for the emerging Portsmouth Plan state that existing traffic volumes exceed capacity at the road junctions at Milton Road and Velder Avenue.

In relation to St James’ Hospital it states “The Transport Assessment completed for the St James’ Hospital – Plot 1 development, for 107 residential dwellings, concluded that there is no expected change in traffic flows in comparison to the former hospital buildings, and that mitigations to the surrounding road network are not required. It should be noted that this application has not been formally approved by the Council. While the 107 dwellings proposed in Plot 1 of the development may not materially impact the identified congested hotspots, there could be traffic implications with the remaining development of the site identified in the Site Allocations: Locksway Road, Milton (2014) report and July 2015 update”.

The Applicant’s Transport Assessment ignores reality.

It dismisses the “rat-running” distortion of the 2014 count as “unlikely” when our evidence says otherwise (202 reported confirmations of the use of St James’ Hospital as a Rat-Run as at 15th March 2020). Instead it presumes a relationship between a Hospital Floor area and vehicles.

The relationship should be about use. Psychiatric Patients don’t drive every day and any vehicle movements that were made during the Hospital’s operations were generally associated with mental care staff and visitors. Similarly, the TA refers to the Child Dev’t Centre and Harbour School on the Phase 1 site as making up 45% of the floor area and hence 45% of the Hospital’s vehicle movements. Children do not drive either and Fairoak House and The Beeches therein were closed in 2014. This is why the Portsmouth Plan Transport Evidence Paper qualifies Homes England’s TA for the Phase 1 application.  It says HE’s TA “has not been formally approved” and “may not materially impact….”. To say otherwise would be both factually incorrect and a misstatement but from PCC’s perspective it’s also saying they cannot rely on it. The Milton Neighbourhood Planning Forum too has already submitted evidence undermining the Homes England’s Transport Assessment’s claims.
It is absurd to conclude a proposed development of 230 houses and 485 car-spaces will reduce vehicular movements to that applicable to that same part of a Hospital when it was operational. There is absolutely no credibility in such a conclusion. Is it at all conceivable with parking for 485 vehicles there will only be 76 departures and 24 arrivals in the morning peak? No of course not.
In any case, what MT4 is saying is that even if it were to be re-used for a hospital, the additional traffic must be capable of being “satisfactorily accommodated”.

We are the joint 4th most Congested City outside London and the junctions at the southern end of the Eastern Rd; Velder Avenue/Milton Rd/Rodney Rd cannot meet current peak demands and nether can Goldsmith Avenue/Eastney Rd. The Transport Assessment takes no proper account of developments elsewhere impacting on the already congested road network such as the Kingston Prison redevelopment for 267 apartments.

Increasing traffic congestion from this scheme is inevitable because our local highway network is unable to operate efficiently now when peak demand exceeds capacity. Policy MT4 is explicit:- redevelopment of the hospital must be capable of being accommodated.

4) Excessive Car-Parking The car-parking element is 485 spaces whereas the current PCC Parking standards on 230 houses and apartments in this location should be 352. PCC’s emerging Parking Policy would allow just 270. That alone  means the applicant is intending to generate additional traffic above what PCC currently permit and intends to restrict in the future. Ironically PJL claims the site is accessible for public services/amenities and is good for walking and cycling whereas the rationale for the excessive car-parking appears to assume otherwise.

At a time when PCC is committed to being “Net Zero-Carbon” by 2030 in terms of emissions such a high level of car-parking is at best mischievous and at worst negligent.

5) Road Traffic Air Pollution From Proposed New Development

The applicant’s AQ Statement recognises that “Development should, wherever possible help to improve local environmental conditions such as air and water quality” but then says:- ‘the focus of planning policies and decisions should be on whether proposed development is an acceptable use of land, rather than the control of processes or emissions (where these are subject to separate pollution control regimes). Planning decisions should assume that these regimes will operate effectively.’

This both undermines causes and effects and misleads the reader into thinking because PCC has a regime and the will to control it, the development will be acceptable. That’s factually untrue and traffic from the development feeds into the local Air Quality Management Area 9 covering parts of Eastern and Milton Roads and Velder Avenue. PCC does not yet have a lawful Air Quality Plan.

The latest 2019 AQ Report identifies pollution levels in AQMA 9 are rising and currently they are only within “Legal” limits by 6%. It describes the 2017-2018 NO2 annual average change  as being “moderately adverse”  and the “NO2 annual average exhibits an upward trend in the last 5 years demonstrating an AQ deterioration in the long-term similar to the previously reported 5 year trend.”

The Applicant’s AQ Statement concludes “concentrations of relevant pollutants (NO2, PM10 and PM2.5) at nearby sensitive receptors and at the Proposed Development are predicted to meet the relevant air quality objectives in the opening year. Therefore, it is considered that no mitigation measures will be required during the operational phase“.  That is an unscientific conclusion. As the outgoing Director Public Health admitted at the PCC Committee recommending the Mini Clean -Air Charging Zone, the Council’s predictions are based around modelling which could be erroneous.

There are rising pollution levels in AQMA 9 and the City has never reached legal compliance with air pollution targets since the legal limits set in 2010 were imposed together. Owing to the improbability of reaching legal compliance for many years to come, it would be unsafe to allow this scheme.

The absence of any substantive evidence or likelihood the use of the development will not damage air quality and will not be injurious to the health and well-being of existing residents elsewhere in Mliton is contra to the “cautionary principle” required in decision making involving potential threats to Public Health.

6) Absence of Renewable Energy  Nowhere  in the proposed scheme is there any adoption of “Renewable Energy”. The NPPF at para 150:- New development should be planned for in ways that: a) avoid increased vulnerability to the range of impacts arising from climate change. When new development is brought forward in areas which are vulnerable, care should be taken to ensure that risks can be managed through suitable adaptation measures, including through the planning of green infrastructure; and b) can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as through its location, orientation and design. Any local requirements for the sustainability of buildings should reflect the Government’s policy for national technical standards.
Why is there no Solar PV on roofs of new buildings? These can be installed in the construction phase using Solar Tiles. It is irresponsible to expect future residents to have to retro-fit them.

The applicant’s Energy Statement says:- “Due to the nature of this scheme, renewable technologies have been discounted. The report highlights lower energy consumption can be achieved by using energy efficient, be lean and be clean measures, which will bring benefits to the development throughout the lifetime of the building rather than the lifetime of a technology.

That is not acceptable when the Council declared a Climate Emergency in March 2019 and set a Zero Emissions Target for 2030.

There is a disused Boiler House (Lancaster House) with external brickwork in exceptional condition and because there will be a network of service pipes for steam heating throughout the Hospital, the retention of this building for a renewable communal heating scheme would be eminently more sustainable than demolition.

7) Harm to the Setting of the Grade II Listed BuildingThere is harm to the setting of the Grade II Listed Hospital implicit in the Heritage Assessment which identifies pre-1909 structures as “Significant” and says there there will be a degree of heritage harm to the designed grounds and the asylum buildings. This contravenes the intentions of the Portsmouth Plan Policy MT4 requiring the integrity and appearance of the building to be preserved. The integrity and appearance is compromised by the construction of new houses and car-parking spaces on the female (west) and male (east) Airing Courts which are intrinsically connected to the main building. The applicant actually acknowledges that too because his Heritage Statement reports:-

“…. It is thus the case that views out eastwards from this location were designed to be particularly ‘open’ or uninterrupted. However, the new dwellings unavoidably bring new built form into the former eastern airing grounds here (where there was not previously built form), and somewhat closer to the asylum buildings. This results in a small degree of heritage harm to the designed grounds and the asylum buildings


Para 7.39. “…… it is the case that new built form is introduced into the former eastern airing grounds, where there was not previously built form; and thus the new build unavoidably results in a small degree of heritage harm to the designed grounds and the asylum buildings, including the chapel“.

and again:-

7.40. “The new dwellings at Area 3 area situated in the former western airing grounds. They are in a single row, and comprise two pairs of semi-detached homes, and a short terrace of three homes…..  it is the case that new built form is introduced into the former western airing grounds, where there was not previously built form; and thus the new build unavoidably results in a small degree of heritage harm to the designed grounds and the asylum buildings.

Internally, there is damage to the Entertainment Hall. It was placed at the heart of the building and offered a focus on life outside of the purely clinical setting.  It’s Gothic Byzantine features reflect the design of the building and are a testament to mental health regimes of the time.  The loss of this feature within the applicant’s scheme is unacceptable. It would surely be better to preserve it as a social space which reflects the heritage of the building.

8) Health Impacts The applicant’s Health Impact Assessment identifies themes using a Health Urban Planning Checklist and concluded it will have positive health effects for all of the following 11 key health themes:-  Housing quality and design;  Access to healthcare services and other social infrastructure;  Access to open space and nature;  Air quality, noise and neighbourhood amenity; Accessibility and active travel;  Crime reduction and community safety;  Access to healthy food;  Access to work and training;  Social cohesion and lifetime neighbourhoods;  Minimising the use of resources; and  Climate change.

This scheme is to redevelop a Hospital in a quality landscape. This is a use which gets to the heart of a community especially when it was created out of local funds for the benefit of local people. At a time when the City is bereft of adequate health facilities but is over-burdened with development and traffic congestion and also suffers a 75% under-provision of green-spaces, how can this proposal ever be considered as having a positive health impact on the local community?

The Health Impact Assessment recognises the nearest GP Surgery is at  Devonshire Avenue is at the limit of comfortable walking distance but it omits to say it’s closing!

The development destroys green spaces, harms the SPA, degrades the air quality and compromises the Council’s aspiration for “Net Zero Carbon Emissions” by 2030. It does nothing for social cohesion or improving health. Indeed it is far more likely to lead to the reverse.

9) Insufficiency in “Affordable Homes” and non-compliance with PCS19 and “Providing Affordable Homes in Portsmouth” Brief of 2019.  Notwithstanding the applicant’s reliance on MT4 to deliver housing on St James’ Hospital to replace  existing health-care uses is no longer sustainable within the spirit of the NPPF, there would be far too low a provision of Affordable Housing for a development of this scale anyway. This City needs more Affordable Family Houses rather than more “Affordable” Apartments. However, this scheme proposes only 7 Affordable Houses. 18 of the Affordable Homes are in a pair of 3 Storey Apartment Blocks overshadowing Brasted Court, justified by a claim they compliment the scale and form of the adjacent Falcon House. Falcon House is a 2 Storey building. This both illustrates the applicant’s lack of appreciation of the site and the neighbourhood, but it also shows his lack of willingness to comply with existing planning policies.

10) Increased Stresses on Community Infrastructure Policy MT4 in the Portsmouth Plan 2001-2011 carried forward into the 2011-2026 Plan, assumed strategic policies on transport, health and education services would be achieved to sustain the growth. The 2001 Plan aimed to secure housing with an adequate supply of health and education services together with a City free from unnecessary traffic congestion and with a choice of effective public transport systems and alternatives to the car. The 2011 Plan aimed to make Portsmouth an accessible city with sustainable and integrated transport; and by ensuring there is adequate supporting infrastructure for the new development and growth of the city.


Core Objective 2 of the 2011-2026 Portsmouth Plan aspires to make Portsmouth an accessible City with a sustainable  and integrated transport system but it is not achieved. Traffic congestion is rising and the Council has no means of improving public transport to enable any switch away from car-dependency.

Core Objective 6 aspires to encourage and enable healthy choices and appropriate access to healthcare and support. However that is totally undermined by expanding GP waiting lists and rising deficits in hospital bed numbers leading to a worsening of health outcomes and a consequential increased costs to the nation.

Core Objective 8 aims to ensure adequacy of supporting infrastructure for development and growth but also totally fails when there are rising deficits in school-place sufficiency in the right locations. The Council’s bolt-on-solution of creating temporary classrooms in playgrounds as a reaction to the growing numbers of children risks higher levels of  childhood obesity with the loss of playgrounds for activity breaks and outdoor PE.

Effectively these three failures in the Core Objectives have contributed to increases in Portsmouth’s relative high levels of deprivation, comparative low-life expectancy and lower than average educational achievement. The Applicant’s Health impact Assessment does not stand scrutiny and this application could never redress these local imbalances whereas it might do if it was retained as a Hospital.

This application must be refused. 

It is not the obligation of the City Council to underwrite developers profits because they choose to overbid for sites. It is their business to professionally appraise development opportunities and if they miscalculate then that is their problem. That’s “developers risk”.

It is not the City Council’s responsibility to subsidise landowner’s land values with inappropriate planning consents either.

The City Council’s role is to enable “Sustainable Development” compliant with the Statutory Plan and the NPPF. This scheme does neither.

Rod Bailey

Chairman Milton Neighbourhood Planning Forum

15 March 2020