In a significant blow to the long-awaited regeneration of Townhill Park in Southampton, Countryside Partnerships, formerly Drew Smith, has pulled out of constructing 250 homes across three crucial plots. The ambitious project, initiated in 2011, has faced numerous obstacles, with only 56 homes out of the proposed 665 completed so far.
The affected plots – Meggeson Avenue, Rowlands Walk, and Copse Road (plots two, nine, and 10) – were slated to house a total of 254 homes, including flats and houses of varying sizes. However, Countryside Partnerships’ decision has left these plots in limbo, further delaying the already protracted regeneration.
Residents in the area express frustration and disappointment over the stagnation of the project. A 70-year-old resident who has witnessed the decline of the Copse Road site for over a decade laments the lack of progress: “The regeneration has been going on for too many years now. It’s time someone took action and did something about it.”
Former city council leader and current Southampton Itchen MP echoes these sentiments, labeling the entire project a “decade-long disaster.” He criticizes the council for a series of missed opportunities, stating, “There are literally thousands of people living in inadequate accommodation in Southampton, while the council presides over one catastrophe after another.”
The affected plots, now standing empty or boarded up after previous demolitions, contribute to the frustration of residents who fear that leaving the buildings vacant will “bring the area into decline.” Suggestions are made that the flats should be refurbished and reused, giving priority to the people displaced during the regeneration.
The chair of SO18 Big Local emphasizes the impact on the community, saying, “The Townhill Park community has been decimated by the decommissioning of blocks of flats, with the loss of over 250 families being moved out.” The chair also highlights the negative effects on local schools due to a drop in student numbers.
Despite the setbacks, Countryside Partnerships’ withdrawal is being described as a mutual agreement with the council after a review of the scheme and available resources. The future of the three plots remains uncertain, pending a decision by Southampton City Council. However, the council remains committed to progressing the regeneration at a swift pace.
A spokesperson from the council suggests that affordable housing providers, already involved in the regeneration, could potentially step in to develop the vacant plots. This, however, hinges on a council decision, subject to financial approval in the new year. The council assures residents that they will be kept informed of the process.
In an attempt to reinvigorate the regeneration efforts, the council appointed four housing providers in August. These providers are now invited to submit bids for the construction of homes on other plots at Townhill – specifically, plot five (Benhams Road, Meggeson Avenue, Hallett Close, and Cutbush Lane) and plot six (Meggeson Avenue shops with homes above and the former site of the pub).
Plot five, which recently secured funding from the Brownfield Land Release Fund, is set to undergo demolition of two empty Benhams Road blocks in spring 2024. Despite this positive development, challenges persist with the three remaining blocks on the same plot.
As the Southampton community grapples with the ongoing regeneration saga, residents and local leaders alike are hopeful for a swift resolution and a revitalized Townhill Park that fulfils the needs and aspirations of its residents. The city council faces the daunting task of balancing progress with community interests and addressing the mounting frustrations of those affected by this prolonged redevelopment process.