Gosport is one of 69 towns across England to have received an ‘in principle agreement’ to host a High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ).
Leader of the Council Cllr Mark Hook said “ I’m delighted that Historic England recognises the scale of heritage assets within Gosport Town Centre and is supportive of efforts to create a High Street Heritage Action Zone, furthering local and regional partner efforts to safeguard and re-purpose some of Gosport’s historic buildings”
Gosport Borough Council worked extremely closely with Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) – operators of Gosport Museum & Gallery – in preparing its proposal, which includes the Conservation Areas of the High Street and Stoke Road. The concept of the HSHAZ is to bring back into economic use under-utilised High Street buildings by creating community, residential, creative, cultural, work or commercial opportunities, designed to safeguard heritage buildings and reinstate their key historical features.
The Gosport HSHAZ proposal focusses very strongly on a number of key projects as focal points for the programme most notably;
- Redevelopment of the Gosport Museum and Gallery (in conjunction with HCT),
- Restoration of the Royal Arms Canopy (and re-use of the front of the building) and
- A public access, arts & performance events programme focussed on Lawrence Square and Walpole Park.
Other key initiatives are likely to include;
- Mapping High Street and Stoke Road property ownership, engaging with Landlords to encourage private investment in heritage properties
- Creation of a ‘Shop Front’ grant fund to assist and encourage Landlords to replace or upgrade shop frontages, adopting a more ‘heritage’ led appearance
- Creation of a business incubator in appropriate High Street premises
- Development of Co-working office space in the upper floors of a High Street/Stoke Road building
- Reinvigorating the High Street Market and explore the potential for a permanent indoor market
- Beginning the process of developing a night-time economy, encouraging an improved dining/ entertainment offer and opening up ‘out of hours’ leisure usages
- Creation a customer services/hospitality training hub in the High Street, to provide employment and training opportunities for local residents
- Public realm upgrades
Overall the programme will attempt to bring as much as possible of the c.1500m 2 of ground floor and 17,000m 2 under used above-ground space, back into use
The ‘in-principle’ agreement by Government would secure up to £1.78 million of Government funding, over a four year period (commencing April 2020), towards a wider £3.2 million programme of investment and measures intended to breathe new life into the High Street and Stoke Road. A further Programme Design phase will take place between now and January 2020, that will confirm the scope of activity and final level of funding.
The proposed £1.8 million redevelopment of Gosport Museum and Gallery by HCT will anchor the programme, with capital works transforming it into a vibrant community hub, providing heritage, arts, education and cultural provision. Vacant High Street-fronting rooms will be converted into a new museum, café and retail offering, increasing the visibility of Gosport’s heritage and encouraging local residents to get involved in interpreting and conserving local history collections.
The building will act as the hub for al fresco performances and specialist street markets, provide a ‘home’ and working space for creative or arts companies and anchor the HCT-run programme of performance arts in both Lawrence Square and Walpole Park. Gosport will also benefit from its share of a separate £3 million Cultural Programme organised by the Arts Council and National Lottery Heritage Fund, that will animate England’s high streets and celebrate them as the focal point of community activity.