A Welshman wants to buy an eerie abandoned island fort in west Wales and turn it into an activity centre.
Phil Hedley, originally from Milford Haven, has grand ambitions to buy Stack Rock which is just off the Pembrokeshire coast, but needs to raise a quarter of a million pounds first.
The Grade II-listed building was built between 1850 and 1852 to defend the Royal Naval Dockyard at Pembroke Dock and surrounding areas against a Napoleonic invasion. In it’s heyday it used to be home to 150 or more soldiers stationed there.
It has long been silent since it was disarmed in 1929 and has been advertised for sale a number of times. It was last offered up to buyers in 2018.
It was only by chance, however, that Mr Hedley came across the building up for sale. He said: “I was walking the coast path with my dogs in the Christmas holidays when it popped up on Facebook on my phone saying it was on the market.
“I saw it and I thought that’s less than the cost of a semi-detached house in Milford and started thinking about how I could fund it.”
Corporate and private funders said they would only invest in Mr Hedley’s fledgling idea if he developed it into a luxury resort to maximise returns, but that wasn’t what he had in mind.
“I didn’t drop it and decided to keep going until someone tells me to drop it,” he added. “This has always been a dream.”
Mr Hedley wants to save Stack Rock before it disappears forever and believes an activity centre could be popular with locals and visitors to Pembrokeshire.
Similar ideas had been successful in other places, said Mr Hedley, pointing to No Man’s Fort off Portsmouth.
Due to its historical importance, Mr Hedley realised it would be a perfect site to receive grant funding, so he set up a not-for-profit business with the aim of pursuing it as a community project.
Mr Hedley and a business partner set up Stack Rock Fort community interest company (CIC) and first need to raise around £245,000 in order to purchase it.
Mr Hedley hopes to raise the money through crowdfunding and has reassured any potential investors that all money from the crowdfund will go to the CIC and not to him.
“The fort will belong to the company, we can’t then sell the fort, someone would have to take it over,” he said.
“I’m not interested in making a fortune for myself. But every time I go past it, I just think what a waste of such an iconic fabulous building. It needs something to have done to it.”
Mr Hedley said it would be a perfect base to run diving, sailing and other outdoor activities.
While it is hoped the crowdfunding will cover the cost of buying the island, the bill for renovating it is expected to be around £5 million.
For more information about the project, visit the crowdfunding page here.
“When it’s spread over lots and lots of people, it becomes achievable,” added Mr Hedley. He has until mid-August to raise the funds.
Mr Hedley, who is currently based in Portishead, works arranging apprenticeships and he wants to incorporate part of that into the project, to help with local job opportunities.
To complete the project, Mr Hedley thought it would take around five years but said it could be done in stages, so more people could stay on the island over time.
“There’s so much usable space there, it can build and build,” he said.