Free parties hosted by Portsmouth City Council took place across Somerstown, Cosham and Hilsea this October and have proved the value of engaging the community in local developments.

Party for Hilsea, the last of the three community events rescheduled following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, wrapped up this past Saturday. Party for Somerstown and Party for Cosham took place on the two weekends before this, and all three delivered a powerful community response.

In total, over 3,500 people attended the free events – a great turnout for the council.

Free ice-cream, face-painting and glorious sunshine aside, each event also produced an array of support from local organisations. A fantastic 46 charities, community groups, schools, cost of living advisors, NHS services, mental health support organisations, emergency services, arts, and music and craft specialists came along to offer people advice, support and free entertainment. From the NHS ambulance service offering CPR education, to Jedi training with Master D-Trill, to marshmallow roasting, there was something for everyone!

Importantly though, the events were created to provide a chance to engage with local communities about upcoming building projects in the city. Namely, Hilsea Lodge, Hilsea Lido, Cosham Opportunity Area and Somers Orchard (the new community-chosen name for the Horatia and Leamington project). It was a chance for locals share what they think should happen to the sites.

One local said they stopped by Party for Somerstown for the fun, but ended up taking interest in what was happening at the Somers Orchard site – a sentiment echoed by attendees across all three events:

“I initially came because it’s a party, but I’ve also been having a look at the new developments over in the recently take down blocks. [I’m] really liking the new look out that they’ve got there.”

What happens now?

The council will now spend time reviewing the feedback, ensuring the public remain both involved and informed as the projects develop. Cllr Darren Sanders, Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness, said:

“It’s great to see so many people helping shape what is after all their future. They want better and greener homes Portsmouth people can afford – so do we. ¬†They want more accessible and modern community spaces – so do we. Where it can do it now, the council is already implementing what people said they wanted, so many thanks. This city has a bright future, and I cannot wait to see it delivered.”

Check out the videos:

So, what did partygoers get to know about the four building projects? Here’s a breakdown:

Somers Orchard
  • While details might yet change, locals had a chance to see and give their thoughts on the council’s current plans. The CGI illustrations were publicly unveiled for the first time at Party for Somerstown and show what the new homes could look like (see images below). The first image illustrates a new block of homes while the second image shows what a public garden could look like on the site.
Hilsea Lodge
  • Hilsea Lodge was a supported housing unit, now unused due to no longer being fit for use. The council asked those who attended the parties what type of housing they’d like to see in its place.
Hilsea Lido
  • It’s worth noting that there aren’t any plans in place yet, but the council were keen to hear people’s thoughts at the community parties on what they think the future of Hilsea Lido should be. This comes following allocation of the government’s Levelling-Up Funding towards the end of last year.
Cosham Opportunity Area
  • The council has a unique opportunity to improve local public spaces, community facilities, transport connections and to create new homes for the people of Cosham. Again, while no plans have yet been made, the community parties allowed locals to tell the council what they think Cosham needs the most – to thrive now and in the future.
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