ANGER has erupted over a major scheme to restore a historic Hampshire naval fort.

Regular dog walkers around Fort Gilkicker in Gosport have expressed their anger over Gosport Borough Council's decision to close off public footpaths around the base and sell Military Road which leads up to the site.

Developers Wildboar Development plan to redevelop the former Fort Gilkicker naval base, near Lee-on-the-Solent, into 22 townhouses and four luxury flats which will be valued at between £1.5 and £3m each.

Marilyn King, who lives in Gosport and walks around the site every day said: "The area used to be lovely with panoramic views across the sea.

"Now the council are attempting to privatise the area and turn it into a millionaire's retreat by closing the public right of way to the Fort from the road."

Marilyn Grant from Stubbington, who walks her dogs at the site seven days a week said: "Thousands of people walk around this historic site every day.

"The council needs to think again and prevent this historic fort from becoming private.

"A heritage or visitor centre would be a more appropriate option than private townhouses."

Fort Gilkicker was built between 1863 and 1871 by the Royal Navy to protect the Hampshire Coast from attacks by foreign vessels.

The fort ceased operating as a coastal defence base in 1956 and has been derelict for decades.

Planning permission to redevelop the site was first granted by Gosport Borough Council back in 2001 however, delays in securing an investor and developer for the site led to constant delays for almost two decades having changed ownership on three separate occasions.

Problems with trespass incidents by schoolchildren at the site at the site during the summer holidays last year also led to over 20 police call-outs causing developers to tighten security procedures and leaving the site with 24hr CCTV and security patrols.

In response, a spokesperson from Gosport Borough Council said: "The Council has sold the access road (Military Road), which forms part of the Solent Way, to FGDL. 

"However, when the council sold the road, it preserved a right for the public to continue to use the route around the north side of the Fort to the bottom of Military Road.  

The scheme, which is expected to cost over £20m, will take three years, with work expected to commence later this year.