By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH COUNCIL have confirmed that the town’s popular tourist information centre has fully reopened following a deal with local holiday firm “Maritime Heritage Tours“; with this news coming just weeks after the base was controversially closed to the public as part of an initiative to cut public funding this annum.
The previous set-up saw the tourist centre run by “Tourism South East”, who were funded for operating costs and employment of staff by the council. It was shut in late April after years of service despite local campaigns to overturn the council’s decision to permanently close the building, a step that saved an amount of £59,000.
Based within Gosport Bus Station, this new-look centre opened last week and will be led by Mike Critchley; a former Royal Navy Officer who has written / published over one hundred naval books. He lived in Gosport for the majority of his childhood and returned five years ago; fast becoming a known figure in community circles.
The tourist information centre will offer local and tourist advice to all visitors; including public transport routes and details of attractions across the Hampshire region. A selection of souvenirs, naval and historic books will further be on sale; whilst visitors can explore a range of holidays and events run by Maritime Heritage Tours.
The building will be open to the public from 9:15am to 1:15pm (Monday to Saturday) although this could also increase or change if it is required. It can be found just inside the main entrances to Gosport Bus Station with brilliant transport and borough links; including the Ferry, Town Centre, Falklands Garden and its local marina.
It is important to stress that although this agreement has been reached, Gosport Borough Council will not be paying any costs to run this reopened tourist information centre. This was confirmed in a statement made by Leader Peter Chegwin who welcomed the reopening and wished Mr Critchley well with his business venture.
He said: I’m delighted the council has been able to reach agreement with Mike to achieve this. It is a win-win for Gosport. The reopening of the tourist information centre at no cost to the council tax payer saving £59000 per year. I wish Mike every success in this new venture and I congratulate him on his public-spirited attitude”.
Mr Critchley added his own comments in the press release on the council web link: “Running a small tourism business here I was initially concerned to see the tourist information centre close. As a council tax payer I do now conclude it was the right move. We will provide as full a service as we can, adding further as we go on.”
“We can offer information for all local sights and attractions and local public transport. We do have souvenirs and naval books for sale, and will be offering our own holidays. Until now our business has been run from my spare bedroom. We look forward to meeting all old and new customers at our handy new bus station home.”
Readers can explore further information about Maritime Heritage Tours and all current offers on this website, whilst a previous report from Mike Critchley’s recent trip to Senegal can be viewed on the Globe article here.
PICTURED BY CONNOR STEEL: The entrance to the recently reopened Gosport tourist information centre.