Homes plan ‘will keep hall open for Gosport people’

Paul Kingswell, 48, from Gosport Picture: Malcolm Wells (170815-7804)

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PLANS to build flats at the back of the Masonic Hall in Gosport’s town centre have been brought back to the table.

Masons running the hall in Clarence Road hope their revised designs will get approved and then pay for restoration work.

If it goes ahead, part of the building facing King Street will be knocked down and 12 flats put in its place.

Paul Adams is chairman of Gosport Masonic Hall Ltd, which runs the building.

He said: ‘We have bowed to what the council particularly wanted rather than have a confrontation over it.

‘The 12 flats will look like four Edwardian or Georgian townhouses.

‘It doesn’t make a lot of difference to us what the outward appearance is as long as we achieve the goal to preserve the Masonic Hall.’

Mr Adams said the flats will raise cash for a new roof on the building.

As reported, plans for 14 flats were submitted in 2013.

But the Masons withdrew them after Gosport Borough Council raised concerns over the look of the proposed development and the loss of the part of the hall.

Now Mr Adams and the firm hope that the ‘substantially altered’ plans for the three-storey tower block to fit in with the surrounding area and have no impact on the appearance of the street.

The demolished part of the building is used as meeting rooms and will be relocated to the roof of the older part.

It comes as the hall is struggling to pay its bills, including £10,000 a year for energy, and needs extra cash.

The cash raised from the flats would help this and also see the hall modernised, meaning more community groups can use it.

The section that is due to be demolished is not used by anyone other than Masons.

Paul added it would be cheaper for the group to rent a place to meet rather than maintain a building but that would mean a loss for community groups.

Harbour Cancer Support Centre used the hall for free when their base, in nearby South Street, was broken into.

Carolyn Scott, from the charity, said: ‘It’s hard to find somewhere that’s accommodating. The masonic hall is a nice location.

‘It’s something that the charity talks about for future fundraisers.’

David Wooden, secretary of Gosport Masonic Hall Ltd, added: ‘The money we can generate will go to improving the building.’