THE transformation of Old Portsmouth into an arts and crafts quarter is to go ahead after the city council put £100,000 into the scheme.
The authority has coughed up final costs for the Artches project despite receiving a £900,000 bill for clearing the nearby Camber Dock so work could start on Sir Ben Ainslie’s race base.
It means 13 of the arches at Point Battery will now be turned into art studios for students to showcase their work. A brasserie and kiosk will be set up to help attract more visitors and create new jobs.
The bulk of the project was funded by a £1.75m grant from the Coastal Communities Fund, with the council having to find the remaining £100,000.
The council says the Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) and Artches developments are different, so there was never any danger that it would not contribute, despite failing to recoup the BAR clean-up costs from the government.
Ministers awarded BAR £7.5m to get the project off the ground. The council had expected a grant of £8.5m, which would have covered the cost of preparing the land, but this was not to be.
The spending of the Artches cash was approved by Councillor Linda Symes, Tory cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport. She said: ‘It’s important because it adds a destination to that part of Old Portsmouth and gives struggling artists the opportunity to have their first start-up business at a reasonable rental.
‘These ancient monuments are better when they are inhabited, rather than just being left.
‘Sir Ben Ainslie’s race base and the Artches are two different schemes and we also gained £1.75m in the end. In context that £100,000 is not an awful lot and it’s being used to make another cultural space in the city.’
Cllr Lee Hunt, Lib Dem culture spokesman, who was influential in getting the scheme off the ground, praised the tenacity of council officers who fought to get the £1.75m arts grant.
He described commissioning and partnership manager Claire Looney as having the ‘Midas touch’.
A report by the council’s head of city development and cultural services says the project will help to ensure the historic features of Point Battery are preserved and help towards their long-term maintenance.
As reported, thousands of people signed petitions for and against the project, with campaigners not in favour saying the public consultation carried out did not take into account what local residents wanted.