A CITY landmark will temporarily become the setting for popular military simulations.
Portsmouth-based company UCAP Airsoft will use the HMP Kingston on Milton Lane as their newest venue for the team sport.
Owned by developers City and Country since 2015, the Grade II-listed prison has been a hot topic at Portsmouth City Council for years, with various schemes for the site falling down.
But now the venue will become an airsoft centre for an interim period before being developed into 230 flats.
Richard Winsborough, from City and Country, said: ‘As we work with the council to progress our own plans to convert the prison into a range of apartments, rather than leave the prison empty it makes far more sense for it to be used.
‘A separate planning consent is required for this use, which is why we have submitted this planning application, but it has no effect on our plans to restore and convert the prison into residential use.’
UCAP has already hosted several airsoft games in Portsmouth with one current site in Portchester. The sport is similar to paintball, however Airsoft competitors shoot plastic BB pellets at each other from replica guns.
Head of UCAP, Andy Stevens, said: ‘A lot of care has been taken to make sure the features of the building remain in tact.
‘We’ve been told we could be there for a minimum of nine months and a maximum of two years.
‘Not only does it mean to site is not sitting there unused but that it can be kept secure and maintained by us.
‘We will also offer tours for locals to come and look round the prison.’
But Cllr Darren Sanders had concerns. He added: ‘Really all residents and councillors want is clarity. The problem is that in the past people didn’t know what was going on with the prison.
‘But it is a sensible way forward. The key thing is to make sure City and Country deliver a long term solution.
‘I hope they will continue to work with local people and councillors on trying to find the best solution.’
An application to use the site for airsoft was lodged as a formality in May and already two sold-out sessions have taken place there.
On Thursday City and Country were also granted permission to use the site for storage.