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Daily’s former home set for demolition despite campaign

A bus company is set to demolish a regional daily’s former home despite campaigners’ attempts to save the building’s facade.

First Bus has applied for permission to clear the site of The News Centre, in Portsmouth, including the demolition of the main building.

The News Centre, pictured, was the home of the Portsmouth News from 1969 until 2013, when advertising and editorial staff moved out, although it continued to be printed there until last year following the sale of the building to dmg media.

First Bus, the site’s new owner, announced plans earlier this year to transform it into a “super bus depot” capable of housing up to 90 electric vehicles, although campaigners had called for assurances that the building would not be demolished in its entirety.

Portsmouth print plant

However, that now appears unlikely following the transport company’s application to Portsmouth City Council – although the company has told HTFP it hopes to donate items from the site, such as printing presses, to interested local groups or museums.

A letter sent by First’s agent Vail Williams to the council said the 2013 departure of the News had led to the building “falling into disrepair and becoming a magnet for anti-social behaviour, trespassers and squatters”.

The letter added: “The site has been recently sold to the applicant who want to demolish the building largely due to its condition, heavy cost for the need for security, in the interests of public safety and its attraction to unwanted visitors ahead of a planned application for redevelopment.”

A petition was set up in May to save the site from demolition and the latest update has prompted the number of signatories to more than double in the past week.

Russell Simpson, who launched the petition wrote on “As many are aware, The News Centre in Hilsea was sold to First Bus a couple of months ago and the future of this 1960s-built building has a big question mark hanging over it.”

He added: “This petition is to save the facade of ‘The News Centre’ which has become a big part of Hilsea’s identity and iconic when entering Hilsea. We need to tell the council and the planning committee that we will not accept anything less than saving this almost 60-year-old facade.”

Simon Goff, managing director of First Bus South, said: “Our plans to create a fully electrified, purpose-built depot on the site of the former New Centre represents major investment in Portsmouth and highlights our commitment to providing green travel in the area.

“The new depot will provide a home for a fully electric bus fleet, which directly aligns with Portsmouth City Council’s aim to provide clean, zero emission public transport.

“We have formerly applied for permission to demolish the former News Centre building and expect the application to be determined in line with planning policy in the next month.

“This is an important project, and we continue to engage with the local council and community on our plans, which do include preserving some historical parts of the building and reusing them at the new depot.”