WORK has finally started on a controversial development to save an historic Victorian fort in Gosport by turning it into luxury flats.
Developer Askett Hawk has started work to transform Fort Gilkicker into 22 houses and four apartments.
Workers have arrived on the site to start cutting down trees surrounding the grade II listed fort.
The work has angered people living nearby who say it has ruined the beauty spot.
Don Gordon, the chairman of the Fort Gilkicker Action Group, fought the plans for more than 10 years.
He said: ‘We’ve been hoping for some time that in view of the financial climate they wouldn’t be able to sell the properties.
‘But now they have started it’s plain they have been successful in selling properties which is sad for us and all those people who supported us in opposing this development.
‘When the work is done it will be nothing like the quiet and peaceful atmosphere which we have known for so many years.’
The plans were given the green light by the government in August last year after a public hearing.
Developer Askett Hawk said turning the fort into a residential development was the only way to save it.
Last year, potential buyers were invited to visit the site by London estate agent Chesterton Humberts.
After the first open day in August, 30 per cent of homes were reserved.
Mr Gordon says he is worried the people who eventually move into the luxury apartments will not be from the local area.
He added: ‘We know they had a marketing campaign and people have come forward but they will not be local people.
‘It will not be of any benefit to the people of Gosport at all.’
The Victorian fort was completed in 1871 and was built to defend the deepwater anchorage at Stokes Bay.
It had 22 gun emplacements designed to sweep the approaches to Portsmouth Harbour with gunfire.
Hampshire County Council bought the site in 1986 to protect the fort until an alternative use could be found.
Frances Pilcher, also of the Fort Gilkicker Action Group, said: ‘I went down there when I heard work had been going on and it has been completely desecrated.
‘It looks ugly down there now.
‘We were quite surprised work had started.
‘We’re worried now work won’t start on the buildings yet and then we will be stuck with it.
‘The fort itself didn’t look too bad before because it was covered by the trees but now it looks really ugly.
‘It’s a shock. I would have thought local people would have been given a bit more notice.’
In a statement David Adams, from Askett Hawk Developments, said: ‘We have begun initial clearing works at Fort Gilkicker which are necessary to allow us to undertake further surveys and preparation of the site.
‘Once these pre-construction works are completed we look forward to confirming a date for the main phase of construction to restore this fantastic and important ancient monument.’