£2.2m to help regenerate Gosport brownfield sites

By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas

GOSPORT Borough Council is to receive £2.2 million to start the redevelopments of the town’s bus station, and of the council’s maintenance depot in Wilmott Lane.

The funding has been allocated from the government’s Brownfield Land Release Fund which is part of the One Public Estate partnership between the Office of Government Property, the  Local Government Association, and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.

‘Wrecking ball wish’ may come true

In July last year, the Leader of Gosport Borough Council Councillor Graham Burgess was reported as saying he wanted to, “take a wrecking ball to the bus station building”.

With £1.35 million of the funding available to prepare the site – including the demolition of the bus station building – it looks like his wish will be granted.

He said: “This money is a huge boost to our plans to bring new life to Gosport’s town centre with an attractive harbourside development – a new gateway for the borough – and create badly-needed new homes.

“The old bus station is an eyesore and needs to go, but we need to smooth the way for potential developers so they can create something special for Gosport, while making commercial sense for them.”

The chair of the council’s Economic Development Board Councillor Stephen Philpott told The Globe: “The timing of it is very important as we have not been able to move as a council on redeveloping the bus station site.

“The planning application for the new bus station has been submitted and the money is in place for that so now we can turn out attention to the old bus station and clear what is a contaminated site and make it ready for development.”

Redevelopment ‘the public would be proud of’

Certainly, with the bus station moved to where the short-stay car park and taxi rank are currently located and the bus station site cleared – thereby saving any developer a great deal of time, effort and money – the council is hoping it will be much more marketable than was the case with previous attempts.

It is currently being marketed by Savills with the website stating the price is available, “on application”.

Councillor Philpott said that it is all at a very early stage but confirmed the bus station site – which is owned by the council – has attracted expressions of interest.

However, the council does not as yet, “have a particular [development] partner in mind. We are working to identify a partner who shares the same vision for the site as we do.”

In particular, a redevelopment which, “the public will be proud of and is appropriate for the location”.

The council’s view is that it could include bars and restaurants, shops, a hotel, a gym and a visitor centre celebrating Gosport’s naval heritage plus at least 200 energy-efficient homes.

Social housing could be build on Wilmott Road depot site

The rest of the £2.2 million BLRF money – £850,000 – will be used to demolish buildings, clean up contamination and remove underground storage tanks at the council’s Wilmott Lane depot.

As with the bus station, the aim is to prepare the site for redevelopment with the council favouring a residential scheme of about 160 new energy-efficient homes, a large proportion of which could be social housing with affordable rents.

Councillor Burgess explained that, “the old depot site is rundown and in poor condition … But to create new homes there we need to get the site cleared and cleaned up.”

After failing – as reported in The Globe – to get any money from the first allocation of Levelling Up funding, Gosport Borough Council will hope that this allocation of £2.2 million of government money augurs well for its next Levelling Up bid.

Photograph (top): Gosport bus station – but for how much longer?