Clare to realise £1.5m dream for sea fort to become conference centre

Companies at loggerheads with trade unions could find themselves cast away in the middle of The Solent until they reach a solution, if plans to build a conference centre at Spitbank Fort are realised.

One of four sea forts on the shoals of the Solent, Spitbank Fort, is to be transformed into a conference centre and luxury retreat by owner Mike Clare’s Clarenco company.

Clare, founder of the Dreams bed retail store chain, plans to spend £1.5m refurbishing Spitbank Fort into a luxury retreat with eight en suite bedrooms and a conference room.

If planning permissions go through, the first meetings could take place on the rock in spring 2011 and, according to Clare, conciliation service ACAS could be one of the first group’s to convene, having expressed interest in holding conferences at the Fort.
The previous owners had been unsuccessful in their attempt to turn the Fort into a casino, clubbing venue, and hotel and sold the property to Clare in November 2009 for around £1m.

“It’s not every day you get to buy a man-made island with privacy, security and space, with 50 rooms steeped in military history and some of the finest panoramic views in the UK,”  Clare said when he bought the island.

Restoration work will be carried out by Clarenco’s Amazing Retreats brand, which also includes a portfolio of manor house and castle venues, including Ackergill Tower in Scotland.

The restoration is likely to face plenty of challenges, including:

  •  carrying out the restoration by boat
  • developing planning options for visitors’ arrival in the future, likely to involve scary ladders, rough seas and bobbing boats
  • planning hurdles and the design challenge of restoring this unique building to its former glory
Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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