By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas
GOSPORT Borough Council has started to distribute grants which will enable the owners of historic buildings to restore shopfronts as part of a nationally funded programme to revive high streets.
Two shops in Stoke Road have been awarded the money which comes from the £1.78 million allocated to the council and Hampshire Cultural Trust under Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones programme.
The owners of Blitz Photography at 8 Portland Buildings are to receive £2,835, and the owner of the currently vacant 65 Stoke Road £2,898, to produce costed schedules of repair/restoration work based on an assessment of the building’s condition and historic character.
It is the first stage of a process that the owners must complete before they can apply for grants to carry out the work.
Portland Buildings will be 100 years old next year and the owners of Blitz Photography – Georgina and Stephen Reid – are well aware of its historic importance and regard it as, “an iconic building”.
Georgina said, “Our shop was formally Bulls Hardware store which was extremely well known and served the community from the 1920s to the 1980s. As the latest owners, we are the custodians of this building and the grant will help us preserve this historic town centre shop into its second century for future generations to enjoy.”
Such is their enthusiasm for the project that husband Stephen told The Globe: “We’ve engaged an architect and they are coming next week to do a survey of the building. They will look at the deterioration in the building.”
At 65 Stoke Road, owner Lisa Grafton, was also pleased with the grant. She said: “This is an amazing opportunity to improve or invest in your property and I can’t wait to see the results. I think it will be a real transformation and huge improvement to my shopfront. Stoke Road is a buzzing part of Gosport, a little gem of a place to set up a small business.”
The HSHAZ money was announced last summer and includes a contribution to the £1.8 million redevelopment of Gosport Museum and Art Gallery which is housed in the former Grammar School at the western end of the High Street.
Also, the Edwardian stained-glass canopy at the historic Grade II Listed Royal Arms building in Stoke Road is earmarked for restoration with the front of the building being used for community events.
Wishing the two Stoke Road shop owners success with their development projects, Gosport Borough Council Leader Councillor Graham Burgess said: “Through this four-year programme, we hope to restore the character of Gosport’s historic centre, making it a more welcoming and attractive place for everyone to enjoy.”
Owners, and leaseholders holding a minimum unexpired 5 year lease, of shops within the Gosport High Street and Stoke Road Conservation Areas, can find out more about the programme and how to apply for a heritage property grant by submitting an expression of interest form.
Photo: 8 Portland Buildings, Stoke Road. Reproduced with permission.