Work to transform one of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s oldest buildings into a visitor attraction and boatbuilding skills centre will begin in just four weeks, The News can reveal.
It comes as defence secretary Philip Hammond visited the dockyard today and praised the ‘fantastic’ plans to redevelop old buildings in the site.
One of the first projects to begin is the long-awaited transformation of Boathouse 4 into a traditional boatbuilding skills centre and visitor attraction.
The Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust is turning Boathouse 4, into a facility to teach historic boatbuilding and engineering to young people and those out of work.
It would also be a visitor attraction as people can watch the work in progress as well as viewing exhibitions and historic vessels.
There are also plans to run a restaurant on a mezzanine floor above the construction halls, which will look out over Portsmouth Harbour.
Mr Hammond told The News: ‘These are fantastic proposals.
‘We have got a critical mass of marine industry skills in Portsmouth.
‘There is huge demand for the traditional kind of skills here and young people looking for employment opportunities.
‘They are coming together to create a self sustained facility that is rooted in this heritage of the community.’
As reported in The News, the plans took a major step forward in October last year after the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the project a £3.75m cash boost.
Mr Hammond was invited to Portsmouth by the Conservative party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South, Flick Drummond.
She said: ‘It’s exciting because it will stimulate the next generation to get into boatbuilding.
‘I think it’s absolutely fantastic.
‘Anything that is going to provide training and skills for our unemployed and our young people is crucial to Portsmouth.’
Work is due to begin on the project in the next four to five weeks and it is expected to be completed by April 2015 with its first intake of students.
Peter Goodship, the chief executive of the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, said: ‘It is an exciting proposal and it will give the public an insight into the way we conserve our heritage as well as providing opportunities for local people to learn new skills which we regard as very important.
‘It feels very exciting. This is one of the last buildings in our portfolio of buildings we wanted to bring into use.’
The Heritage Lottery Fund has also provided cash for a number of bursaries for some of the first students to take up the course.