An historic club in Portsmouth has gone bust with the city council’s planning department being held partly to blame.
A former director of the Royal Naval and Royal Albert Yacht Club John Hill has described the situation, which has seen a delay of more than a year in deciding the club’s planning applications, as “absolutely outrageous”.
The traditional private club in Pembroke Road, Old Portsmouth, counts admirals and Victoria Cross holders among its former and present members but now its doors are shut as administrators have been appointed to decide its future.
Mr Hill, of Southsea, said, although the club had struggled financially for a number of years, its directors had devised a scheme to change the Victorian building’s second floor offices either into three two-bedroom apartments or a nine-bedroom hotel, leaving the ground and first floor restaurant, bars, ballroom and library intact.
The apartments plan was submitted in October 2020 and the hotel application in September 2021. If one of the developments had gone ahead, the club’s financial position would have been secured but both proposals are still described on the council’s website as ‘awaiting decision’.
‘The situation is absolutely outrageous,’ added Mr Hill. ‘There is a failure by Portsmouth City Council to get a grip of its planning department; we are not alone in this.’
Members locked out
As a result of the continuing uncertainty, corporate recovery specialist Begbies Traynor, of Southampton, has taken over the premises, locking out club members, business tenants and staff.
Among people alarmed by the shock closure of the Royal Naval Club is former city councillor and heritage campaigner Alicia Denny.
She said: ‘Having been to the club many times for events and meals, I am so sad to hear of its sudden end and fearful for the many historic artefacts within it as well as the future of the building.
‘I’m angry that the chaos of the city’s planning department has played a major part in the club’s difficulties. Even the smallest of domestic planning applications are taking months to be determined, causing extra cost and aggravation for residents and businesses – the service has totally lost its way.’
Planning log jam
Conservative Party campaigner in Old Portsmouth Bob Johnson said a number of elderly club members had relied on the social aspect of meeting friends for meals and now that community link was broken they would suffer.
‘I, too, have heard of difficulties caused by lack of action in the planning department, which has affected businesses recovering from the Covid pandemic. Something should be done about the log jam, and quickly.’