‘Military should free up land to help industry’

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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UNUSED military land should be made available for a racing yacht sailor’s future base, a stalwart of the sport has said.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s comments come after Alex Thomson said he could quit his base in Gosport if he cannot find a new place and said he would like to move to Fort Blockhouse.

Sir Robin told The News: ‘It would be very sad to see Alex leave.

‘Unfortunately it’s government-owned, and government is incapable of moving quickly,’ he said. ‘If they’re not going to use that then get on with it, free it up and let people use it.’

Sir Robin said the Ministry of Defence-owned land could be used to expand sailing in the area.

He added: ‘That could become a very valuable place for expanding the sport, with workshops and things. It’s all there. You could put small businesses in straight away.

‘Why are we still waiting? Who is going to make the decision?

‘That could be a tremendous boost to the area.’

As reported, Vendee Globe sailor Alex’s firm AT Racing has grown in Gosport and is at sites across the town.

Now the firm is looking to move into a new location that will accommodate it.

But the Fort Blockhouse site is MoD-owned and not free for use, despite it being used less and less over the years.

A spokeswoman for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation said: ‘DIO has no current plans to sell Fort Blockhouse but does keep its land holdings under regular review.

‘Some time ago DIO did plan to sell part of the Fort Blockhouse estate known as Blockhouse 3, but the site was withdrawn when a requirement was identified.’

There has been speculation the site could be used by Royal Navy personnel when the new aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – arrive in Portsmouth.

But the DIO spokeswoman added: ‘The site is not required for the aircraft carriers, with the exception of adding a navigational aid.’