Don’t miss this great opportunity to regenerate Hilsea Lines

Tents in the Isambard Brunel car park in Portsmouth

NEWS COMMENT: Wild campers in car park might make a difference

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The Hilsea Lines were built in the mid-nineteenth century on the recommendation of the Palmerston Commission to protect Portsmouth dockyard from land-based attack.

They form a continuous line of defence across the north of the city, with bastions and the potential to hold 220 guns.

Though an impressive construction, the lines were obsolete by the time of their completion, but they are far from redundant now.

The Hilsea Lines Community Interest Company (CIC) has an ambitious restoration and regeneration plan to turn bastion five into a landmark for the city.

An interpretation centre would allow visitors and schoolchildren to learn about the history of the lines and their part in the defence of Portsmouth.

It is hoped that a partnership with the University of Portsmouth will provide a range of learning facilities. In addition, some commercial activity is planned that would permit training in construction and heritage skills with a path for school-leavers to further qualifications and the chance to work on fort restoration projects.

Unfortunately, a retrospective class B8 (open storage and distribution including vehicles, plant and processing and recycling of materials), planning application at Airport Service Road, if approved, could undermine attempts to restore the casements and bastions.

The CIC is particularly concerned that no archaeological survey has been requested.

Historic England was not informed in writing prior to the commencement of the work so that a watching brief could be mounted and that damage has already occurred by concreting a fence into the face of the embankment.

There is also a concern that wildlife will be affected.

The lines and bastions are an icon of the north of the city and I want to see them put to a useful purpose as soon as possible, as per their management plan, and that the council guards against planning applications which would spoil the area.

That is why I am supporting a petition to raise objections to the planning application and to press for the lines and bastions to be brought into community use.

You can find details of the petition on my website at the following address and I encourage you to give it your support: pennymordaunt.com.

All too often we only appreciate our heritage when it has gone.

Let us ensure that we do not have cause to lament the loss of the great opportunity open to us to regenerate the lines.