Fort Gilkicker back on the market again

By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas

FOR the third time in six years, Fort Gilkicker at the eastern end of Stokes Bay, Gosport, is up for sale though this time it is going under the hammer with a guide price is £1.5 million.

The Victorian Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade II* Listed fort is to be included in an online auction by land and property auctioneers Clive Emson on July 28.

The fort comes with planning permission for its conversion to 26 homes – 22 in the former gun emplacements and 4 flats in the barrack block – and auctioneer Rob Marchant described it as, “unique”, and “a magnificent relic of the Victorian era, built between 1863 and 1871.”

Mr Marchant also said it is a, “really exciting project” but it is one which has proved a challenge for three previous developers, so much so, that very little renovation has been carried out.

Developers come and go

In 2016, Fort Gilkicker Developments Limited bought the site from Fort Gilkicker Properties Limited, plus the service road and some adjacent land from Gosport Borough Council.

At that time Andrew Temperton – a director of Fort Gilkicker Developments – said: “The basic structure is fabulous and it is so sad to see its current condition. But it’s an opportunity for us to restore the buildings.”

Two years later, he admitted: “the project has currently been ‘moth-balled’ due to the problems encountered with Historic England over progressing implementation. We have no plans to re-start at present.”

In 2019, the fort was on the market for £5.5 million and Andrew Richardson of the then agents Jackson-Stops said the total cost of fulfilling the planning permission for the town houses and flats would be in the region of £18-20 million.

Eventually, in 2021 the site was purchased by the current owner Gilkicker Fort Limited. David Brace is a director of the company and the Companies House website records his nine other active directorships some of which are concerned with developments in Gosport such as Haslar Gunboat Yards and Sheds.

The price paid for Gilkicker was not initially disclosed but the 2020-21 accounts of Fort Gilkicker Developments Limited state that the company’s, “property stock was disposed of after the year end for £1,100,000”.

Andrew Temperton confirmed the sale but said: “I regret however that for commercial reasons I cannot comment on the terms of the sale.”

Submissions by the current owner to Companies House include an outstanding charge – formally, a legal mortgage – of loan facilities extended by Fort Gilkicker Developments Limited to Gilkicker Fort Limited and secured on the property.

‘disappointed by the fact that fort has been allowed to be sold on again’

Less than a month ago, the Palmerston Forts Society posted on its Facebook page that they had been in contact with the developer and been told: “they are currently in discussion with potential contractors who have experience working with listed and heritage buildings and who have the enthusiasm and passion to take on this project. The project is moving forward but no site work will start until the end of the year.”

Now the site is up for sale, PFS Treasurer Duncan Williams told The Globe that the society is, “very disappointed to hear that the latest development plan has failed with the fort being put up for sale again. We hope that a new owner can be quickly found.

“We also hope that this Scheduled Monument can, at best, be given a sustainable future and, at least, be made secure against the repeated attacks of vandalism that Fort Gilkicker has suffered from in recent years.”

And Fort Gilkicker Information Group facilitator Caroline Simpson is also, “disappointed by the fact that fort has been allowed to be sold on again in its dilapidated state and indeed been allowed to get into that state in the first place.

“There are concerns about safety from children breaking into the more vulnerable areas that could easily cause serious injury or fatality and that this will be an ongoing concern with whoever takes over ownership of the site.”

“The fort is a precious piece of our heritage and an area with protected wildlife. The [FGIG] are still here to ensure that whatever the future holds for this special place it is one that benefits the community. It is a shame that it seems to have just been handed from one developer to another without thought for the way they will protect it before they start work at the site.”

Photograph (top): Fort Gilkicker. Clive Emson, reproduced with permission.