• Gosport Old Grammar School

Gosport’s town centre is set to be transformed following a successful bid for funding from a national £95m regeneration fund.

Gosport Borough Council and Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) worked in partnership to submit the bid to Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HSHAZ) scheme. The aim of the scheme is to deliver physical improvements and cultural activities to regenerate high streets across the country. Disused or under-used buildings are to be transformed into creative spaces, offices, shops and housing. It is planned that this high street revival will become the catalyst for wider regeneration, with heritage and local character at its heart.

69 towns in England have been successful in securing funding from the initiative, which is supported by £52m from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Future High Street Fund and £40m from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport’s Heritage High Street Fund. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is contributing £3m, which will be used to support cultural programmes engaging people in the life and history of their high streets.

The level of funding applied for by Gosport Borough Council and HCT came to £1.78m. The final sum secured will be confirmed by Historic England in January of next year, following a programme design phase in the interim months to confirm the full scope of activity.

Starting in spring of 2020 and spanning a four-year period, the Gosport regeneration project will include a number of major initiatives. Key amongst these will be bringing vacant or underused historical shops back into use, establishing workspaces for small companies, cultural and community events and improving the dining options on the High Street to drive the night-time economy. Through these and other economic opportunities, the project aims to bring up to 18,500 sq m of space back into use.

The proposed £1.8m development of Gosport Museum and Art Gallery, housed in the town’s Old Grammar School, will anchor the project. In addition to the HSHAZ award and self-investment, HCT, which operates the venue, has secured funds from a number of sources to transform the building into a vibrant community hub. Hampshire County Council is a key supporter and major funder of the project, which will provide heritage, arts, education and culture for local residents and visitors alike, while the currently vacant High Street rooms will be converted into a new museum, café and shop.

Commenting on the announcement of the funding, Councillor Mark Hook, Leader of Gosport Borough Council said: ‘I’m delighted that Historic England has decided to further invest following the establishment of the Heritage Action Zone. It has recognised the scale of heritage assets within Gosport town centre and is supportive of our efforts to create a High Street Heritage Action Zone, allowing local and regional partners to safeguard and re-purpose some of Gosport’s historic buildings. The town centre will be transformed from being perceived as the biggest challenge for Gosport into a source of community pride.’

Paul Sapwell, Chief Executive of Hampshire Cultural Trust, added: ‘We are delighted to be working with Gosport Borough Council on this project and are thrilled to have received such significant funding. The Old Grammar School building has provided education, culture and heritage in Gosport for over 100 years. It has long been our ambition to develop this historic building into a cultural centre that sits at the heart of the community. With this funding, that of other donors and our own investment, we can now realise our vision to turn it into a place where the town’s people and visitors can come together to enjoy and celebrate the arts, education, heritage and culture.’