WATERSPORTS, nightlife and more jobs for residents could all be on the horizon for Gosport.
That is the vision of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in a new report on how Gosport could be shaped by 2050.
In what has been described as a ‘bold and exciting’ plan, Solent LEP has mapped out how the town could respond to proposed site closures from the Ministry of Defence.
Under the proposals, sites such as Fort Blockhouse and Royal Clarence Yard could be transformed into tourism and leisure attractions.
The proposals are not legally binding, but excitement has built around the release of the report, which many believe offers a good direction for the town’s future.
In the report, Royal Clarence Yard is highlighted as a place to potentially build more maritime activities, with its deep water access.
John Gillard, principal of sailing charity Oarsome Chance, believes that Gosport must use its coastal location more effectively, if it hopes to create a better future.
‘There aren't many opportunities to take part in maritime activities – and even fewer that are accessible for people’ he said.
‘I don't think the coastline is being used enough, so to have more activities for people would be a plus.
‘Our competition rowing for children is always over-subscribed so it would be great for them to have more choices available. I believe we’re in the perfect place to focus on sailing and it’s nice to have some sort of vision for the future.’
Further down the coastline, Fort Blockhouse is set to be disposed by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) next year.
Meanwhile, HMS Sultan’s closure has been postponed to ‘no earlier than 2029’ – and has also been included in the LEP’s proposals.
Solent LEP believes Fort Blockhouse is an ideal location for new tourism and leisure facilities, with the Submarine Museum already in the area.
With HMS Sultan’s size, it is hoped that a mixture of business and housing could be put in its place, with a potential extension of the Alver Valley Country Park and a centre for marine and hospitality training.
Gosport maritime expert Mike Critchley believes that Gosport has enough leisure facilities already – and could see the Blockhouse site become further housing.
He said: ‘I imagine that in years to come the site of Blockhouse will become some smart-looking flats.
‘Gosport seems to have some good leisure facilities already and Blockhouse is prime real estate for the MoD to make some money off.
‘Personally I would love to see a railway line. Transport in and out of Gosport has always been the biggest issue and that should be something to consider for the future.’
In Lee-on-the-Solent, the LEP claims that further food and drink establishments could be of benefit to the area, with the chance to create a new leisure district.
Brian Mansbridge from the Lee Residents Association says that discussions over something like this near Daedalus have been ongoing for many years – but he has no expectations until a planning application is submitted.
He explained: ‘These are quite generic ideas that have been bandied around for a while now.
‘I don’t think we would need more food and drink establishments at Daedalus waterfront – there will always be aspirations we want to develop though.
‘People have said Lee-on-the-Solent could do with a hotel, but whatever happens the seafront view must not be spoiled.’
Across the town, the Solent LEP hopes to improve transport links, introduce renewable energy facilities and bring in a 5G network.
Chief executive Anne-Marie Mountfield said: ‘The report identifies the key elements of a bold and exciting vision for Gosport.
‘It is a vision we hope to see realised through future public and private sector investment to establish Gosport as a driving force in both the regional and national economy.
‘In the coming year, we will be working to agree a local industrial strategy with government to drive future investment and, based on the evidence set out in the report, I expect to see the area feature in the broader Solent strategy which is seeking to unlock the potential of key coastal and waterfront communities such as Gosport.’