SOUTHAMPTON’S famous dock gates have been saved.
A Government preservation order has been placed on the imposing landmarks, just days before they could have been knocked down.
When plans by Associated British Ports (ABP), owners and operators of the city’s docks, emerged last month to demolish the distinctive structures, there was a local outcry to save the long-standing landmark gates.
Following a recommendation by English Heritage to the Government, the entrances at Dock Gate 8 and Dock Gate 10 have now been safeguarded for future generations and are officially listed as Grade II buildings.
Heritage watchdog the City of Southampton Society was so concerned over the planned destruction it submitted an application straight away once details of the proposed scheme were made public.
Arthur Jeffery, the society’s vice-chairman, said: “We are absolutely delighted at this news as the gates are an important part of the city’s historic waterfront.
“These are art deco style gates and the society feared that they could have gone the same way as the former Ocean Terminal in the Eastern Docks back in 1982.”
Southampton City Council also recommended the gates to be listed, describing them as “a rare and evocative survival of inter-war maritime port structures of clear special architectural and historical interest”.
A Grade II listing means a structure is considered to be nationally important and imposes strict regulations and limitations on future work and repairs, which can be carried out on the structure.
Back in the 1950s when the docks were known as the “Gateway the World” because of the many ships departing to all corners of the globe, these were the two gates through which most people began their journeys.
During the Second World War the structures, especially Dock Gate 8, guarded the docksides, especially during the build-up to D-Day in June, 1944, when more than two million American soldiers left Southampton for the beaches of Normandy.
The same gate was the backdrop when hundreds of dispirited German prisoners of war trudged from the waterfront before being dispersed to various camps.
ABP had wanted permission to demolish the gates and was making preparations for the work to be done at the end of this month.
The port operator argued that the gates, which have stood since the development of the Western Docks in the 1930s, were obstacles standing in the way of progress and demolition would allow bigger loads to enter the port, ease traffic delays and provide extra security facilities.
An ABP spokesman said: “We understand that the Southampton Dock Gates have been listed as Grade II structures. “ABP is of course happy to respect the decision and will take the existing infrastructure into account when planning any future developments.”