Royal Navy: Gosport MP demands MoD dispose of Fort Blockhouse as it's "rotting at the taxpayer’s expense"

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Bitterly slow progress over the future of a historic military fort has frustrated the local MP who is calling for it to be disposed of.

Dame Caroline Dinenage addressed parliament on Monday about the ongoing problems at Fort Blockhouse in Gosport. The site, which is thought to be the UK's oldest fortification, was earmarked for disposal by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2016, and given a deadline of 2020, yet it still stands to this day.

Ms Dinenage, Conservative, said the fortification is a costly burden to her constituents and sought reassurances that no further delays would take place. Addressing James Cartlidge in the House of Commons, minister of state for defence procurement, she said: "The 2016 better defence estates plans earmarked Fort Blockhouse in Gosport for disposal. Here we are eight years later with numerous delays, and that site is still rotting at the taxpayer’s expense, doing nothing for the local economy, nothing for the local community and nothing for the MoD. Can the minister please update me when we will finally see some progress on that site.”

Fort Blockhouse is thought to be the UK's oldest fortification. Dame Caroline Dinenage, Conservative MP for Conservative, said Fort Blockhouse is currently a burden on the taxpayer. The disposal of the site has been delayed several times.Picture: Brian Bracher Compass AerialFort Blockhouse is thought to be the UK's oldest fortification. Dame Caroline Dinenage, Conservative MP for Conservative, said Fort Blockhouse is currently a burden on the taxpayer. The disposal of the site has been delayed several times.Picture: Brian Bracher Compass Aerial
Fort Blockhouse is thought to be the UK's oldest fortification. Dame Caroline Dinenage, Conservative MP for Conservative, said Fort Blockhouse is currently a burden on the taxpayer. The disposal of the site has been delayed several times.Picture: Brian Bracher Compass Aerial | Brian Bracher Compass Aerial
Dame Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP, in parliament after raising concerns regarding Fort Blockhouse on March 25. Picture: Parliament TVDame Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP, in parliament after raising concerns regarding Fort Blockhouse on March 25. Picture: Parliament TV
Dame Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP, in parliament after raising concerns regarding Fort Blockhouse on March 25. Picture: Parliament TV | Parliament TV

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Mr Cartlidge, Conservative MP for South Suffolk, gave no deadline as to when Fort Blockhouse would be dealt with. He said: "I appreciate that she wants to see progress here. I would stress that while we engage as closely as possible with Gosport Council, and want to make progress, it is a very complex site. There are significant defence assets still in place with [Defence Infrastructure Organisation] DIO and also with the Royal Navy. I am committed to looking into what more we can do."

Plans are in place for the fortification to be transformed into a "mixed-use development", with consultancy services being invited to conduct a "modal shift transport study" in May 2023 to explore options for the area and its buildings. Gosport Borough Council leader Peter Chegwyn previously said the Fort Blockhouse site is due to be released in 2025, adding that he would like to see "a mix of residential properties along with marine employment to make use of the deep-water access".

Fort Blockhouse was built over five centuries ago, starting in 1431 until the mid-1960s. It currently remains as the 33 military field hospital, under the 2nd Medical Brigade. It also houses a branch of the National Coastwatch Institution, whose members act as lookouts over Portsmouth Harbour.

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