Group unveils its £2m plan for big upgrade to halls

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AMBITIOUS plans to breathe new life into a mainstay of Gosport’s cultural life have been unveiled.

Paul Dodd, of Gosport Community Association, said a £2m five-year plan could regenerate Thorngate Halls and the Grade II-listed building Bury House.

The association has already won a £120,000 grant to fix leaking windows and put in heating at Bury House.

Mr Dodd said: ‘There’s so much that can be done.

‘What we’ve seen over the years is we’ve had little incremental additions to the halls. It may be that we flatten the lot and start again.

‘This can all change if the population say ‘that’s not what we want’.

‘We have to know what they want, it’s their community not ours.’

Mr Dodd said a contractor is being brought in to run a feasibility study in the coming months.

That will see the halls thrown open for 100 hours so people can use it and tell the association what they want to see happen.

The association is hopeful that it can win a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and is also working with English Heritage on its plans.

The plan will see Bury House turned into a form of arts centre.

Mr Dodd added: ‘Our plan is to renovate Bury House back to the way it was in 1870 and have rooms as they were.

‘We believe it’s achievable and we’ve got people who believe it’s achievable.’

Hampshire county councillors Peter Edgar and Chris Carter have contributed cash from their budgets to help spruce up the garden at Bury House as part of the project.

Janet Allpress, who has run the Ker-Mel School of Dancing for 24 years at Thorngate Halls, said the centre could do with work and is currently under-used.

She said: ‘It badly needs decorating and bringing up to date.

‘The facilities are quite good really but it does need modernising.

‘I think it’s under-used, it could be used a lot more.’

The association heralded the £120,000 grant from Hampshire County council as the start of a new era.

And Gosport Borough Council leader Mark Hook said: ‘It’s a tremendous vision.

‘It’s important that people have a vision for the future.

‘Gosport Community Association certainly has that.

‘I’d rather them have that sort of ambition than nothing happen.’