Traditionally the grim sidekick to the larger, more important but not necessarily more glamorous Portsmouth, Gosport has started making something of itself in recent years. But the larger city across the busy harbour was also sprucing itself up, and it started sooner and with larger, more prominent projects such as Gunwharf Quays. Gosport, a rapidly growing town of 77,000, remained overshadowed, despite radical transformations that made the most of its long, obscured and substantial coastal assets.
With 17 miles of water frontage on Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent, Gosport always had enormous potential, much of which started to be realised after the Navy released several locations for redevelopment. The town has a new Millennium Promenade and other infrastructure improvements thanks to the £86m Renaissance of Portsmouth Harbour Millennium Scheme. The former barracks and administrative buildings in Royal Clarence Yard, Priddy's Hard and St Georges Barracks have provided an abundance of interesting waterside homes.
Sunley, a property developer who is building in the area, says that average house prices in Gosport are much lower than the South-east generally, at £91,000 compared to £148,000. "We are cheaper than Portsmouth, but prices have doubled in three years," confirms estate agent Darren Tait of Beals, who was born in the town to service parents and, like them, decided to remain. "We are on the coast, very picturesque, and we have more parks and are less built up than Portsmouth."
Despite rising prices, first-timers are active here, competing with investors at the low end of the market. "First-time buyers and investors are buying small houses starting from £80,000. We are getting many investors from Surrey, especially around Guildford, Farnham and Liss," says Tait.
"They are buying two-up, two-down houses for about £100,000 and renting them easily, getting between £525 and £550 per month. There is no saturation yet. Tenants are young couples who find it too expensive to buy, people on short-term contracts, and service personnel. If one of these properties came on the market today, I could sell it within 24 hours."
Gosport still has many service families, and the market picked up sharply as soon as the war in Iraq ended: "A year ago, buyers would buy just about anything. Now, they are very price-sensitive and hunt around. But the property market generally is very good, and if a house is priced correctly, we probably have five buyers for it."
The 400 yards separating Gosport from Portsmouth involves a three-minute journey by ferry or a 15-mile car ride. The M27, with links to the M3 and A3, is just beyond Fareham, providing access to Southampton (21 miles) and London (70 miles). Journey time on the ferry to northern France is four hours. An ambitious tram scheme linking Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth has been approved.
Major supermarkets are in the town centre. There is a street market every Tuesday and Saturday and monthly farmers' market, and a French market visits several times a year.
The old Ritz was demolished to make way for shops, but a new cinema may open in the Royal Clarence Yard development. There is a cinema at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, and three in Southampton. Thorngate Theatre hosts a weekly traditional jazz session. Oliver's Bar and the Railway Inn offer live music.
Sailing clubs and watersports facilities are abundant, and the town supports a few leisure and fitness centres and an ice rink. The Gosport and Fareham rugby team made it to the intermediate cup final at Twickenham.
Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower traces naval ordnance from the Battle of Trafalgar to the Gulf War. Winner of the Small Visitor Attraction 2003, it is in historic buildings at Priddy's Hard, the Navy's former armaments depot. The other popular naval museum in Gosport is the Submarine Museum. The town also has a Living History Village.
Gosport has an annual carnival and fun fair, many regattas, and birthday celebrations in honour of Charles Dickens at the novelist's birthplace museum.
Studio flats start from £60,000, and Beals is selling a three-bed terrace in Rowner for £63,000. In The Quarter Deck, a new waterside apartment block, Beals has a two-bed two-balcony flat for £229,995, and another two-bed flat has a rental list price of £300 per week in the low season, £600 in high.
Former officers' quarters
Several two-bed split-level flats in the Royal Clarence Yard have spiral staircases, sash windows or other unusual features; between £195,000 and £199,995, at Halifax.
Period and second-hand three-bed houses and bungalows are priced between £100,000 and £150,000 at Halifax. New three- and four-bed houses in Priddy's Hard start at about £210,000 at Beals.
The huge Italianate Little Church has eight bedrooms, an organ/ snooker room, conservatory, two terraces, an indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and parking; £1.25m, FPDSavills, 01962 841842.
New to view
Sunley's Pavilions at the former St George's Barracks is a mixed-use development with studio flats from £99,950, three-bed townhouses from £249,500 and four-beds from £254,500 (02392 504008). Admiral's Keep is a development of 33 three- and four-bed detached houses and townhouses, from £199,950 (Charles Church, 02392 556993).
Beals, 02392 589922; Halifax, 02392 586811.Reuse content