MoD land is missing piece of masterplan jigsaw

Child refugees: more cash is needed from the government

COMMENT: Government needs to dig deep to find extra cash

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It’s quite a statistic. Did you know that more than a fifth of Gosport is owned by the Ministry of Defence?

Considerable areas of land such as Priddy’s Hard, the former naval armaments depot, may have been released for redevelopment already.

But there is clearly more that could be freed up to help Gosport make its waterfront masterplan reality.

Council leader Mark Hook says land retained by the MoD at Royal Clarence Yard after it was sold to Berkeley Homes is a key site.

Quite simply, getting those extra acres will enable the town to fulfil its undoubted potential by capitalising on its location to create an impressive destination and local jobs that could eventually be measured in thousands.

So it is encouraging to hear defence minister Anna Soubry’s words during her visit to Gosport to see present and former MoD sites.

The parliamentary under-secretary of state for defence may have only been in post for a month, but her tour of the town has clearly helped her to better understand why opening up more MoD land is so important to Gosport’s future economic prosperity.

She said of the waterfront scheme: ‘My job is not to say whether it’s a great scheme or not, (although) it sounds pretty good I have to say.

‘My job is to make sure they can have the conversations that they need to have with the MoD so they can begin to fulfil their dream.’

This was an excellent opportunity for Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, Cllr Hook and the council’s chief executive, Ian Lycett, to press their case with a member of the government

The expectation now is that Ms Soubry is as good as her word and helps to facilitate talks between the council and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation over the land it owns at Royal Clarence Yard.

Then we need the decision-makers at the MoD to understand the importance of these acres and agree to unlock the site.

Because until that happens there will always be an important piece missing in the jigsaw that is the waterfront masterplan.