Fresh rallying cry to save Portsmouth’s naval history from decay

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CAMPAIGNERS battling to save naval heritage sites in the city’s dockyard have issued a fresh plea to the people of Portsmouth.

Years of inaction have left almost a dozen buildings in the naval base in a dreadful condition, with many at risk of serious decay.

It sparked an outcry from historians at the Naval Dockyards Society, which urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to either stump up the cash or strike up a deal with heritage groups to breathe new life into the area’s crumbling architecture.

Now the chairman of the group, Dr Ann Coats, has revealed she hopes to get Portsmouth City Council involved in the multimillion-pound bid to protect hundreds of years of maritime history.

Speaking to The News, Dr Coats said: ‘These buildings have survived through bombs and devastation. This is just another crisis in their history.

‘But it is one that we have to act upon as soon as possible to stop the decay.’

She added: ‘It’s never going to be a quick fix, we know that.

‘It’s a question of building up awareness in the public and encouraging people in the MoD to think of alternative ways forward.’

Buildings most at-risk include the former Royal Naval Academy, which has stood at the military hub since 1729 but has been ravaged by dry rot and water penetration since its closure in 2007.

Sources say it could take £7m to make the site safe.

Dr Coats now hopes to set up a meeting with city councillors and MPs at the site, to show civic leaders the scale of the problem, first hand.

She added there had been a ‘cautious take-up’ to help restore the base’s historic railways but is now urging the public to join the appeal.

As previously reported, council boss councillor Donna Jones has already expressed her concern over the state of the sites at the dockyard.

She has met with naval base commander, Commodore Jeremy Rigby, and said she was confident he was doing all he could to find a solution.

An MoD spokeswoman said: ‘The MoD takes its heritage obligations seriously. All of the buildings mentioned by the society have wind and weather-proof protection with further repairs carried out when necessary to ensure that this is maintained.’