HUNDREDS of people managed to get inside while they still can – to the city’s historic prison.
Excited visitors posed for photos behind heavy cell doors and through the thick iron bars of Kingston Prison which is due to be redeveloped.
Yesterday was the second of four consultations being held to gauge public opinion on what should be done with the six-acre site, in Kingston.
Teacher Becky Todd, 22, of Kirby Road, North End, said: ‘It’s actually a bit overwhelming being in here knowing that, not long ago, there were prisoners in the cells.
‘It gives you quite a funny feeling. It’s just how I pictured a prison to be.
‘In my opinion it should be turned into housing because Portsmouth is the second most densely populated city in the UK. We need more houses but I think whatever happens they should keep the front of the prison as it is.’
Michael Barnes, 28, from Gosport, said: ‘I’ve always been interested to see inside here. I would say they should have a mixed community use for the building, maybe affordable housing to help the younger generation get on the housing ladder’.
Much of the prison is listed and cannot be demolished or changed.
That includes the perimeter wall, the front entrance and four of the wings.
Richard Winsborough, the head of planning for developers City and Country, said it was not a done deal that the prison would become homes.
He said: ‘We are a heritage developer, we don’t just do residential housing. We have commercial properties as well. We do a lot of residential developments because that’s one of the most sympathetic ways of using a commercial building.
‘But the reason we’re holding these consultations is to hear what the public think and we treat people with respect in terms of the decisions and challenges we face with the project.’
A third consultation will take place in September and the planning application will be submitted to Portsmouth City Council about a month later.