ASSURANCES have been made that plans to transform part of Old Portsmouth into an arts and crafts quarter will still go ahead – but only if funding is granted.
Planning permission was granted in December last year to turn 13 of the arches at Point Battery into art studios for students wanting to showcase their work, in a project known as the Artches.
The proposal was put forward by the Lib Dems when in power, but nothing has been done since while the council waits to see if it can get funding.
But Councillor Donna Jones, the new leader of the council, said she still hopes work can begin in the coming months.
She said: ‘We have wonderful assets around the Round Tower and Old Portsmouth is a really special place. This will be a good opportunity to get quality art studios in there and have it as a place where people can enjoy cultural activities within the listed buildings. I am doing all I can do to support these projects.’
The project can only happen if The Coastal Communities Fund awards the council the £1.84m it applied for last year.
An announcement was due to be made in January, but the CCF decided it will make a decision next month after deciding it wanted to look more closely at what was being proposed.
Cllr Lee Hunt, Lib Dem opposition spokesman for culture, leisure and sport, said he hopes Cllr Jones will find alternative funding streams should the CCF turn down the bid. He stressed the need for the project to happen and said it has now become even more important given the plans by Sir Ben Ainslie to build a race base for his America’s Cup team nearby at the Camber.
Cllr Hunt said: ‘With Sir Ben Ainslie coming along it makes that area even more viable and even more likely to be seen as a cultural quarter, because it will bring investment, along with teaching and design skills.’
Partnership for Urban South Hampshire – which promotes economic growth in the area – has committed £40,000 to the project but will pull the cash if work doesn’t begin by the end of August.