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Early plans unveiled for Blockhouse site

By Connor Steel

FORT BLOCKHOUSE could be transformed into a housing and business development site from 2025 after a recent ‘consultancy study’ was held to explore all options for the land; which is scheduled for ‘disposal’ by the Military of Defence as part of wider packages aimed at reducing ‘defence estate’ across the United Kingdom.

The historic fort was built back in 1431 and is thought to be Britain’s oldest fortification with multiple additions made to the site until the mid-1960s. Starting as a blockhouse it has been used as a battery, submarine base and training site; whilst currently operating as a ’33 Military Field hospital’ under the second Medical Brigade.

Changes to the defence spending saw Fort Blockhouse, located on the Gosport side of Portsmouth Harbour, listed for disposal in 2016; meaning it would then lose ownership by the Military of Defence. This was due for completion in 2020 before the deadline was extended to later this year and has since been changed to 2025.

Indepth studies were carried out between February and March 2020 to help determine which of its structures would become ‘listed buildings’; whilst major job cuts took place later that year. And with two years to go until its planned disposal, officials are keen to avoid losing time in creating a financial opportunity for the Borough.

Therefore Gosport Borough Council recently invited consultancy services to conduct a ‘modal shift transport’ study in partnership with Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) staff; part of the Military of Defence. This was done to ‘better understand opportunities in relation to traffic and transport’ as part of future development.

Under their regularly updated ‘local plan’ running until 2039 and first published back in 2011, the council says that: “Gosport Waterfront and the Haslar Peninsula will aim to be a world-class locality for marine industries and sailing and be redeveloped to provide new mixed-use neighbourhoods and marine related employment”.

Council Leader Cllr Peter Chegwyn stated: ‘The Fort Blockhouse site, which is due to be released in 2025, is owned by the Ministry of Defence. The DIO is currently working on a masterplan for this area. We would look to see a mix of residential properties along with marine employment to make uses of its deep-water access.”

He expanded his comments by adding that: “Any use would need to be compatible with the historic buildings onsite, along with providing open space and coastal paths. This will be reflected in the emerging Local Plan.”

A spokesperson from the Military of Defence commented: “‘The DIO is working closely with Gosport Borough Council to develop a disposal strategy that aims to unlock the development potentials of the Fort Blockhouse 1 site, through the delivery of a potential mix of future uses”. Final plans haven’t been officially confirmed yet.

The fort further hosts a local branch of the ‘National Coastwatch Institution’, whose members act as lookouts across Portsmouth Harbour. Earlier today (May 22) they were treated to a Royal visit from Princess Anne as she took a tour to the Signal Tower and met staff members on-site; with a photographic report available here.

PICTURED BY ALAMY (E4H66Y): Fort Blockhouse may be transformed into mix of housing and businesses.