South Shields firm buys a former military port 350 miles away

An maritime repair specialist which started out as a small boatyard plans to invest “millions” into its latest purchase.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 11:22 am
South Shields firm UK Docks has announced the purchase of Royal Clarence Yard, in Gosport, Hampshire.

UK Docks, based in River Drive, South Shields, has purchased the five-and-a-half acre Royal Clarence Yard, in Gosport, near Portsmouth, which was formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence.

The yard had previously been offered to Gosport Borough Council for a £1 – but the offer was rejected because of the extensive repairs required on the site.

Managing director Harry Wilson said the company’s purchase of the premises had cost “well over one pound” and would see millions of pounds invested into it over the next decade.

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He said: “We were in competition for the site. But we paid a fair price for it.

“In the past, we have taken over four companies which had all been in a derelict condition and in each case we have spent our time improving each one.”

The yard includes the remains of a railway station used by Queen Victoria, now advertised as a potential site for a café or restaurant.

Mr Wilson said the company would primarily use the site to expand its maritime servicing and repair business as well as making it a “pleasurable part of Gosport” to visit.

UK Docks, which started as a small boatyard on the River Tyne in 1995, has grown to become a national and international organisation.

It now operates dry docks, boatyards and marine service centres around the country.

Mr Wilson described the April contract “as an extremely proud moment for ourselves, as a family-run firm, and the whole of our workforce”.

Speaking about the Royal Clarence Yard deal, Councillor Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, said “this land is the final piece of the jigsaw” when it came to redeveloping Gosport’s waterfront area and added: “We have had talks with the company several years ago, so their purchase does not come as a surprise.

“Anything that drives business in to the area has got to be a good thing.”