A former redundant Ministry of Defence site in Gosport has recently been purchased by a national marine and ship repair company, UK Docks, a sale which is set to transform the area and boost the local economy.
The five-and-a-half-acre site is adjacent to Royal Clarence Yard and was extensively marketed by Lambert Smith Hamptons’ South Coast team and attracted a significant level of interest from the maritime sector, developers and property investors.
Royal Clarence Yard has, over the past 10 years or so, been redeveloped from its original use as a Navy victualling yard, to a vibrant mix of residential, light industry, office and restaurant/leisure uses. The site was identified as a significant opportunity within Gosport’s master planning strategy to create a major new employment hub specialising in marine activity, fully utilising the jetty and deep water access to Portsmouth Harbour.
It is positioned directly opposite the Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays and the Royal Naval Dockyard, where the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are to be based.
The new site owners, UK Docks, are experienced support contractors to the marine industry, performing ship repairs and maintenance around the world. The family-run business is headed up by entrepreneur Harry Wilson and started in the North East of England, which is where its headquarters’ still resides.
There are significant remedial works required to the site and buildings which will require major capital investment and prior to the sale to UK Docks, local authority officers were invited to interview the prospective bidders, to understand their business case and to understand their ambitions to regenerate marine employment on the site, and preservation of the listed buildings.
Robin Dickens, director at Lambert Smith Hampton, commented: “The last major waterfront site with access to Portsmouth Harbour to be sold commercially was the former Vosper Thorneycroft shipyard in 2008 which is now the highly successful Trafalgar Wharf and Drystack. We conducted a far-reaching marketing campaign, specifically aimed at securing a marine business as a buyer and are delighted that the site will be transformed for employment use. Hence the site disposal to UK Docks represents a unique opportunity and potentially a ‘game changer’ to delivering new job prospects and reviving marine activity in Gosport.”
The Yard is of particular historic interest, housing the original Rum Store for the Royal Navy dating back centuries (the last tot was issued in 1967) along with the remains of the railway station used by Queen Victoria, who regularly used Royal Clarence Yard as her disembarkation point for boat journeys across the Solent to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.