A BIDDING war has broken out to determine who will be the new owner of an 19th century sea-fort off the coast of Portsmouth - but it remains unsold.
Horse Sands Fort was put up for auction through Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers with a guide price of £750,000 at the Solent Hotel, in Rookery Avenue today.
The auctioneers have showed more than 15 potential owners around the 99,000sq ft site, with two interested parties attending the auction.
But no-one in the room made a bid at the starting value, leading auctioneer Rob Marchant to drop the opening offer to £600,000 for what he called 'an iconic' site.
The auctioneer, who has more than 20 years’ experience, said: 'This is a rare and welcome opportunity to offer such an iconic site, ready for its next lease of life.
'It’s likely we will never get an opportunity like this again.’
Competing bids came in quickly from three individuals, with the price being driven up to £695,000, but the lot failed to reach the guide price.
The auctioneers are discussing offers with the three bidders, with property developer James Copper saying he bid for the fort because he has a 'vision' for its future.
The owner of Campbell Property Investment Ltd said: 'I have spent my life converting wacky historic structures and giving them a successful contemporary use.
'I think there is a potential for a commercial use for the fort.'
But Horse Sands Fort, which is used to record the history of the follies, has 'huge constraints,' according to developer.
He added: ‘The tides, the wind, its location - all present huge constraints on how the site can be used.'
The fort is one of three, including No Man's and Spitbank forts, owned by Mike Clare, who founded bed retailer Dreams.
The businessman acquired the properties between 2010 and 2013, paying more than £5.5m in total – but he spent more than £12m renovating the sites.
Real estate adviser Colliers is selling the two other forts, with a freehold estimate of more than £8m.