Portsmouth residents demand former Royal Marines Museum isn’t transformed into housing as a new buyer is sought

WORRIED residents have demanded a former museum honouring the heroism of the nation’s Commandos isn’t ripped apart and turned into a resort of overpriced flats.

Monday, 8th April 2019, 9:20 pm
Updated Monday, 8th April 2019, 9:22 pm
Signs have gone up advertising the sale of the former Royal Marines Museum in Eastney. Photo: Tom Cotterill
Signs have gone up advertising the sale of the former Royal Marines Museum in Eastney. Photo: Tom Cotterill

The concerns come as a buyer is being sought to purchase Portsmouth’s historic former Royal Marines Museum, in Eastney.

The building, which dates back to 1865, had been used as the nation’s go-to centre honouring the Green Berets since 1972.

However, it has been empty since the decision was taken by owners the National Museum of the Royal Navy to shut up shop two years ago and move the museum into the city’s dockyard.

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Paul Salt, 45, of Marine Gate, would rather see the site turned into a conference centre or new hotel. Photo: Tom Cotterill

Now commercial property specialists Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) and Hamptons International have been tasked with finding someone to take on impressive structure.

According to the specialists, the site could have a variety of potential uses, from being transformed into a multimillion-pound conference centre or boutique hotel, to becoming an education facility, healthcare hub or exclusive residential resort.

But people living in the city have bulked at the idea of it becoming housing and have instead called on a developer willing to create a new ‘community space’ to step forward.

Teresa Jeffery, 61, of Southsea, said: ‘I would hate for it to become more housing. It’s such a beautiful building. It would be a huge shame if it was wasted and turned into expensive homes the majority of people could never afford.’

The former Royal Marines Museum in Eastney could be transformed into anything from a hotel and conference centre, to a residential development. Photo: Tom Cotterill

Chris Cheetham, 65, agreed. The Southsea resident said: ‘I would like to see it transformed into a community facility. This end of the seafront really needs that. There is nothing from the Coffee Cup to the Eastney toilets.’

While Marine Gate resident Paul Salt, 45, hoped the site could be preserved as a hotel or conference centre, adding: ‘There is a lot of affection for the building and its iconic Yomper statue. It’s quite close to everyone’s heart.’

The potential development of the landmark comprises more than three hectares including the old museum building’s central core and north and south wings.

Jo Northeast, 45, lives in Old Portsmouth with her family and used to be an estate agent in Winchester. She agreed a community facility would be the best option but said: ‘Whatever happens, as long as it saves the building it has to be a good thing.’

Chris Cheetham, 65, of Southsea, is opposed to seeing the Royal Marines Museum turned into housing. Photo: Tom Cotterill

Parts of the site, described by Historic England as ‘the most architecturally distinguished Officers’ barracks in England’, are Grade II listed.

Covenants protect the memorials, memorial gardens and parade grounds there, while any developer would have to follow strict rules to preserve historic aspects surrounding the landmark.

Eastney and Craneswater ward councillor Luke Stubbs hoped developers with some ‘imagination’ would take on the site.

The Tory deputy leader said: ‘This is a unique site on the seafront and it would be a shame to have more housing there. It would be nice to have some other ideas coming forward from imaginative developers.’

Robin Dickens, a director at LSH’s south coast offices, said the sale would ‘ensure’ the building is ‘preserved as a prominent part of the city’s landscape’.

The museum was designed by William Scamp. All its former artefacts are to be transformed to its new home in the dockyard, due to open at some point next year.