Defence Conversion . . .

Defence Conversion: the Portsmouth Harbour Version

In 2017-2018 she is working on a book: Defence Conversion: the Portsmouth Harbour Version with Martin Marks OBE about the many ex-defence sites have found new civilian uses in the last half century, a microcosm of this complex process which is happening all over the world.

Portsmouth Harbour has one of the densest concentrations of specialised defence establishments in the country – reflecting the Dockyard and Garrison’s strategic importance.  Over the past half century, barracks, forts, military lines, the gunwharf, victualling and ordnance yards, ship testing tanks and the country’s earliest naval hospital have found new, civilian uses or are in the process of doing so.  This book explores this complex transition - with the help of the participants. 

Why and how were these sites, so often important in national history declared redundant from their defence roles, and who has transformed them into their extraordinary variety of new uses? They have found new life as industrial estates, storage for historic military vehicles, museums, art gallery, art cinema and multi-purpose auditorium, flats, shopping centre, leisure facilities, a traditional boatbuilding and restoration school, conservation laboratory, archaeology and marine research centre, school, riding stables, luxury hotels, student hostel, rifle range, band practice room, boxing gym, scrap recycling yard, squash courts, nature trails, open air arena, climbing wall, fitness trail, rose garden, public open space - and this conversion process is still ongoing.

Dr. Celia Clark is an expert on the transition of former defence sites to civilian uses.  Her book: Sustainable Regeneration of Former Military Sites edited with Dr. Samer Bagaeen published by Routledge in 2016 explores case studies from China, Taiwan, Holland, the UK, US and other countries, written by planners and academics.  It is the first book to explore this undocumented process which is happening in many parts of the world.

She is documenting: Malta's Military Heritage Transformed to be edited by her and Professor Conrad Thake Publisher Kite Group Co. Ltd. Malta.  She is also documenting how the many ex-defence sites around Portsmouth Harbour have found new civilian uses in the last fifty years with Commander Martin Marks OBE: Defence Conversion: the Portsmouth Harbour Version.  She and her husband Deane are also working on an illustrated book celebrating defence heritage architecture in different parts of the world, to be published by the Wessex Institute of Technology.

On 13 October the Royal Town Planning Institute South East Branch held a seminar with the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust at Burseldon Brickworks to consider current practice in land disposals by the Defence Infrastucture Organisation of the Ministry of Defence and the implications for future South East sites on the disposal list.  It will highlight the roles of planners and examine the roles of central government and former and current regional and national agencies, consider the potential social, economic and environmental benefits of these redevelopments, to share experience of defence site redevelopment and models of good sustainable practice: details from






 Greening the Grey Tricorn Site

There are four inspirations to this scheme.
1. As Secretary and Chair of the Portsmouth Society Roger James and I attended the
Greening the Towns and Cities conference held in Liverpool in 1984 in association with the
Liverpool Garden Festival which created a temporary park along the banks of the
We heard from inspirational speakers all over the world, including how the fortunes of
Prospect Park in Brooklyn New York were completely turned around.  The Park had been designed by Frederick Olmstead who was inspired by the first public park - Birkenhead Park on the northwest of England - to design Central Park as well as Prospect Park.  The Warden described how she and volunteers had completely transformed a dangerous space haunted by drug dealers and criminals into a marvellous resource for the city of New York, much loved and enjoyed by locals including our daughter and her family who live in Brooklyn.
2. Roger and I came back to Portsmouth from Liverpool inspired to green a bit of Portsmouth, and a couple of years later the city council gave us a bit of space left over after planning in Somers Town where Roger worked as a doctor – on the south side of Winston Churchill Avenue to create Portsmouth’s first Community Wildlife Garden.  It’s still there – a little haven of quiet peace, and it’s recently been joined by the Somerstown Community Garden in the grounds of the Omega Centre where local people can grow fruit and vegetables. The lovely Stacey Garden and  Orchard in Copnor is another special space gardened by locals.
3. I picked up the Greening the Grey idea several years ago from walking round Islington near the Emirates stadium – that empty sites hit by the recession should be greened on a temporary basis, until developers are ready to build on them.  You may remember the community garden in the heart of Covent Garden.
4. The Royal Horticultural Society currently has a Greening Grey Britain campaign – encouraging us all to create green spaces in our cities – so you could say it is an idea whose time has come!
Why green the Tricorn site?
Members of the Portsmouth Society and a City Council officer met on the site in April 2011 and agreed on why we want to green this site.  As a main road entry point to the city centre, the bare expanse of carpark does not give the impression of a vibrant, innovative, well designed approach for visitors to the Historic Dockyard, shoppers, university students' parents... not to mention how it feels to Portsmouth residents.  Ben Ainslie’s Americas Cup was the final push which made it happen.
There is currently a gap on the south side of Market Way in the 'green corridor' which otherwise extends on the north side from the new landscaping in Mile End by the Highways Agency to St. Agatha's park.  Facing the Tricorn site are eight plane trees and bushes bordering the Pitt Street carpark, maintained by the city council.  Ivies are growing well in the central barrier of the road. 
Portsmouth as a city is seriously lacking in greenspace.  This project is intended to bring visual benefit - a green link -  to a grey, desertlike area.  The first design in 2011 was by Architect Carl Leroy-Smith, but it’s taken all this time to get the current scheme together and raise money to implement it.  It’s only due to the persistence of David Baynes and his fund raising skills that this project being launched today has materialized.  As far as we know, it is the first temporary greening of a recession-hit site in the south of England – and there’s a two stage benefit to the city, because once development finally gets under way on the site – which has already been empty for 11 years, the plants will be moved to enhance the city parks and green spaces.
We are very fortunate to have brilliant city officers in Portsmouth – including Barry Walker, the City Centre Manager and Vincent Mount, senior Landscape Architect who designed the beautiful and award winning central reservation in Commercial Road inspired by Southsea Beach.  These two made our idea bloom  - with sponsorship from the city council, Portsmouth Tree Wardens and Sir Nigel Gosling’s Trust.  Barry Walker raised sponsorship for Vincent to design the planting and containers, the Hampshire Gardens Trust supported the idea, and the talented Shaw Trust members constructed and planted them.