Southwell Business Park

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File:Southwell Business Park (ex-AUWE Portland).JPG
The entrance of the business park, as seen in 2014.

Southwell Business Park is a business park on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. It is housed in the ex-MOD buildings of the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment, which closed in 1995, along with Portland's naval base, and then became the Southwell Business Park in 1997. The park has become one of Portland's recent success stories.


File:Southwell Business Park (ex-AUWE Portland) 3.JPG
The establishment as it remains today, now the Southwell Business Park.

At the beginning of the Cold War, the Admiralty selected Barrow Hill, near Southwell village, to build a new Admiralty Gunnery Establishment.[1][2] In 1959 the AGE site became part of the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment (AUWE). In 1961 the two AUWE establishments on Portland became infamous following the discovery of espionage infiltration, which became known as the Portland Spy Ring.[3]

In 1995 the Royal Navy closed their Portland base, and the huge range of buildings of the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment, which had employed over 2000 people. The buildings were left empty, with an uncertain future.[4] The buildings stood empty for approximately two years, and due to this lack of interest the Ministry of Defence made plans to demolish the buildings. However Roy Haywood and Ray Bulpit, whose business was the acquisition and development of former military sites, then purchased the site in 1997.[4]

File:South West Coast Path Portland Dorset.jpg
The establishment can be clearly seen on the skyline from various parts of Portland, particularly from the South West Coast Path which runs around the edge of the establishment.

In 1997 they started to look for tenants, and the Southwell Business Park soon became well-established. A wide array of businesses remain at the park to date, providing employment for almost 500 people and being home to over 100 businesses.[5] It is estimated that the total turnover generated from all those businesses since 1997 to 2008 is in excess of £200 million.[4] Around 2000, the park was noted to have a much cheaper rate than other parks within the region such as those in Bournemouth, Southampton, Basingstoke and Reading.[6]

Despite the success of the park, by 2005, when all the most adaptable space had been let, there was still a large area standing empty, namely the 1970s wing. The park company decided to develop the Portland Spa, and by 2008 the health club attached to this included a gym, a fitness studio and an indoor swimming pool. The spa offered more than seventy treatments. A conference centre was established too in April 2007.[4] The Orchid Restaurant opened around 2008, which was converted from the old AUWE canteen. It was later renamed to the Cliff Panoramic Restaurant and Bar. At the same time as the restaurant, work on an 80-bedroom, 4-star hotel, was due to completion in 2008. It was converted from the 1970s wing.[4] The Venue Hotel was opened in October 2008.

However in late 2009 it was announced the park could be put up for sale after the newly opened luxury hotel and spa went into administration. Having borrowed a lot of money to create the spa and hotel, the two facilities had not long opened when the UK went into recession.[7] KPMG was appointed administrators of Portland Spa Ltd and Southwell Estates Ltd, and the park was sold on 18 March 2010 to Compass Point Estates. A new company took over the hotel complex, which was renamed The Portland Hotel.[8]

In 2013 The Ocean Spa took over the running of the adjoining hotel and restaurant.[9] Scheduled for September 2016, part of the site will be home to the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy's £14 million campus. The decision caused much controversy, as the original application for planning permission raised questions over traffic.[10] The plan also caused much objection to the school becoming part of the business park.[11] The Weymouth and Portland Borough Council planning committee rejected the application later in the year, however the academy then appealed. In April 2014 planning inspector Neil Pope overturned the decision of the council, granting permission for the school to be built.[12][13]

Following the decision of the school to be based at the park, the Ocean Spa and Hotel closed in September 2014. It was announced that the new school building work meant the location was no longer an attractive destination for guests.[14] However by 2015 the hotel had reopened under the control of new management, and was named Ocean Hotel and Bar.


  1. Legg, Rodney (1999). Portland Encyclopaedia. Dorset Publishing Company. p. 5. ISBN 978-0948699566.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "The Jurassic Coast - Underwater Research". Retrieved 2014-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Legg, Rodney (1999). Portland Encyclopaedia. Dorset Publishing Company. p. 5. ISBN 978-0948699566.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "A Portland Success Story | Dorset Life - The Dorset Magazine". Dorset Life. Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Southwell Business Park". Retrieved 2014-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Southwell Business Park - Portland - 2000 Promotional Video". YouTube. 2014-06-21. Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "UK | England | Business park 'recession victim'". BBC News. 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. McDonald, Ian (2010-03-31). "Fresh start for new team at Southwell Business Park (From Dorset Echo)". Retrieved 2014-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Davis, Joanna (2013-02-12). "Portland spa takes over hotel (From Dorset Echo)". Retrieved 2014-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Portland Academy plans for Southwell now on display (From Dorset Echo)". 2013-02-27. Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Southwell Business Park owner backs Portland Academy plan (From Dorset Echo)". 2013-06-25. Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "UPDATED: IPACA wins appeal for new £14m campus at Southwell Business Park (From Dorset Echo)". 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Plans for academy site come under fire (From Oxford Mail)". Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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