A PROMINENT building on Portland which has stood derelict for more than 10 years is at the centre of a £12 million homes plan being backed by the government.
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) wants to attract interest in neglected parts of Osprey Quay that have yet to be redeveloped – including the red-brick building known as the Royal Naval canteen.
Sutton Harbour had plans for a £30 million regeneration project at the former air station and although it completed some work on the Castle Court site, including the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) building at Portland House, it pulled out in 2008.
The land has planning permission for self-catering apartments, a food store and an office building.
Now, after trying to sell the land to developers for the past three years, the HCA is seeking to change details of the planning consent in the hope of attracting new construction firms and reigniting the multi-million pound development.
Plans, which includes the canteen building – which used to act as the main administration building for the old naval air station – and 1.2 hectares of land to the south west of the building, will be outlined at a public consultation held on the island tomorrow (Thursday), with construction work potentially starting as early as 2016. Development would represent £12 million investment.
The former canteen was originally earmarked for 39 flats and the land adjacent to the building was designated for a food superstore, self containing apartments and office buildings, but now the HCA want to change the planning consent so that 40 homes can be built on the land, which it hopes would make it more attractive to developers.
Also part of the new plans is that 27 flats will be built in the canteen building, as opposed to the original 39. The application is only in principle, and if a developer was to buy the site, they would have to submit their own planning application to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.
Mark Glendenning, area manager for the HCA, said the agency had been actively looking for developers to take on the project, but they had all said it was unviable.
Mr Glendenning said: “On its own, the canteen building was unviable to potential developers because they wouldn’t be able to make any money from it, so they were not interested.
“We are trying to make the land more attractive for developers for future investment, so that we can save the historic asset of the canteen building and one way to make it viable is to allow potential supporting housing on the adjacent land.
“Effectively, our scheme replaces the one Sutton Harbour had, which was for a mixed use.
“The idea of the public consultation is we know new housing is a controversial subject but we want to explain our point of view, what we are trying to do here and to take on board the thoughts of the public.”
Members of the public are invited to the consultation, which will take place between 4pm and 8pm on Thursday, July 31 in the foyer of the RYA Building on Mulberry Avenue, Portland.
PORTLAND Mayor Rob Hughes said he was pleased they were looking to develop the area, but that developers needed to look at building a shop on the site.
Cllr Hughes said: “Yes, developing the area is great but now with the closure of the small shop in Castletown, there is now nowhere for the sailors to come in and buy provisions which is a real shame and maybe they should look at putting in a small shop for the sailing community.
“The area needs to be developed and to see it moving forward is good, but we do need to wait and see what the final plans will be.”
Andy Matthews, chairman of the Portland Community Partnership (PCP) and a town councillor, said: “We are very keen for the right development to be in that area. The reality is that area needs something to bring it back up.
“It’s a great shame that it has looked so neglected for so long.”
Rod Wild, another town councillor, said: “The main thing is the canteen building, which has remained derelict for years. It needs to be brought back into use.”
Cllr Wild is encouraging as many people as possible to attend the consultation.
He added: “It’s our island. We want to see it developed as sensibly as possible.”
A SPOKESMAN for Sutton Harbour said: “Although the company retains an interest in part of the Castle Court land at Osprey Quay, our focus in recent years has been concentrated on our marine businesses and the promotion of the area of Sutton Harbour in Plymouth as one of the major waterfront destinations in the UK. We have no plans at this stage to become re-involved in Osprey Quay, but we shall obviously be interested to understand the initial proposals being put forward by the Homes & Communities Agency in due course.”