A project to revamp historic buildings in Gosport town centre is bringing colour and creativity to the area.
The project's flagship scheme is the restoration of the Royal Arms Hotel's distinctive facade, which is now almost complete.
Historic buildings elsewhere in the town centre have also had their frontages restored or have gained decorative handmade signs.
The restoration work is using funding from the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) programme - led by Gosport Borough Council and Hampshire Cultural Trust with £1.86 million of government funding from Historic England. The four-year programme aims to transform high street buildings and set up new creative, cultural, residential and commercial opportunities.
The Royal Arms, a Grade II listed building on Stoke Road, has had its decorative wrought iron and stained-glass canopy restored, along with other renovation work.
It was historically a favourite pit-stop for submariners on shore leave, but last orders were called for the final time early this century. The rear of the pub is now supported accommodation for young people with disabilities. It is hoped the original bar at the front will be transformed into a café or community space for people in Gosport.
Some minor decorative plastering on the building will be completed in the spring, when it is warm enough for specialist lime mortar to be used..
Meanwhile, shopkeepers in the High Street and Stoke Road conservation areas are benefiting from HSHAZ grants to help meet the cost of work to restore their shopfronts.
Five buildings have so far benefited from work such as brickwork repairs, new flashings, new windows, new glass leadwork, restored paintwork, new doors and new signs. They are:
Blitz Photography, 8 Portland Buildings, Stoke Road
Lowery’s Property Sales and Lettings, 65 Stoke Road
The Goodwin Studio, 15 North Cross Street
Electro-Trade, 18-19 North Cross Street
The Bridal Hall, 20 North Cross Street
Work on another four shops is due to start in early spring. They are:
TD Wargames and Models, 3 Portland Buildings, Stoke Road
Masons Barber Shop, 3a Portland Buildings, Stoke Road
New Bengal, 27 Stoke Road
29 Stoke Road (vacant)
Applications are now closed for the Historic England-funded shopfront grants. But the council is planning to use its own funds to make £200,000 of grants available in the future.
The HSHAZ team is also working with architects, signwriters and business owners to increase the take-up of traditional hand-painted signs, in a bid to brighten up and enhance the character of the town centre.
New signs have so far been installed at:
33 Green Bottles, 11 North Cross Street
Dimensions Different, 12 North Cross Street
Team Crunk, 13 North Cross Street
The Bridal Hall, 20 North Cross Street
Eight more shops in the High Street and in North Cross Street are due to get new signs in the spring. Businesses interested in renewing their signs can contact the HSHAZ team at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if they can help. Cllr Peter Chegwyn, Leader of the Council, said: "It's great to see this work gathering pace and making a real difference to the town centre. As well as helping to restore historic buildings, it's helping to promote the town centre's unique heritage. Along with our push to bring in new events and activities, it will make the town centre a more attractive and characterful place in which to shop and spend leisure time. "The council is keen to continue improving the appearance of historic buildings in our town centre. To help achieve this it has earmarked a further £200,000 for heritage grants to help local shops and businesses restore historic features and improve their shopfronts and heritage buildings." Rachel James, HSHAZ lead at Historic England, said: "This is an exciting time for Gosport as changes start to be seen along Stoke Road and North Cross Street through the High Street Heritage Action Zone. By revitalising the historic character of our buildings we contribute to people’s pride of place and understanding of the built environment around us all. I’m delighted that Gosport Borough Council’s drive to continue this wave of improvements means more grants will be available for local businesses soon."