THE ground has been broken at the site of a long-awaited new £2m community centre.
A crowd gathered at Westlands Grove in Portchester to watch the ceremonial cutting of the first sod by representatives from Fareham and the county councils.
The new 830sq m development will be built on land immediately to the south of the existing Portchester Community Centre, which will be demolished once the replacement has been completed.
Among those gathered was 85-year-old Frank Renshaw who was a member of the committee for the original centre when it opened in the 1960s.
Mr Renshaw, of Linden Lea in Portchester, said: ‘It cost about £75,000 to build the original centre and even then they were strapped for money for what they wanted to do.
‘The old building is very much as it was – it’s had its time and come to the end of its use.
‘What they want to do here looks like it will be nice.’
The centre is being funded by £1m from Hampshire County Council for a children’s centre at the new site, and a further £1m loan to Fareham Borough Council from the county.
Portchester division county councillor Roger Price made the initial approach to county leader Ken Thornber to ask for financial help.
Cllr Price said: ‘I’m glad I made that approach – at that stage everyone was saying we need the new community centre, but we’ve got no money.
‘It’s great to see the work starting and it will be great for Portchester.’
Cllr Price added that he is already looking at ways of funding an expansion to the new centre for a youth service.
The current centre has been operating without its first floor since August 2008 when it had to be shut for health and safety reasons.
Cllr Sean Woodward, the leader of the borough council, added: ‘You only need to see what’s here now to know this is the right thing to do.
‘After two years of talking the most important thing is that the people of Portchester are going to see something coming up out of the ground and they will be able to use it by the end of the year.’
The opening of the new centre is set for October.