Plymouth’s historic Drake’s Island fortress sold

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Drake’s Island lies 600m off the mainland, in the heart of Plymouth Sound

A historic island fortress with an underground network of tunnels has been sold.

Drake’s Island in Devon, which also boasts a 16th Century barracks and a pier, was put up for sale in October.

It has been bought for an undisclosed sum by Plymouth businessman Morgan Phillips, whose Guardian Industrial UK company is involved in numerous building projects in the South West.

He said he wanted to “restore it for the people of Plymouth and visitors”.

The six-acre island, which is 600m off the coast of Plymouth and is named after sailor Sir Francis Drake, has planning permission for a luxury hotel and spa.

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Jones Lang Lasalle

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The island has been left largely untouched since an adventure training facility closed in 1989

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Jones Lang Lasalle

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There is a rumour that Drake’s Island is joined to the mainline by two more secret tunnels – one connecting to Plymouth and one to Cornwall

Mr Phillips, a former navy weapons engineer, said he wanted to preserve the original features and structures on the island and enhance them in line with the planning permission.

He said he planned to create a living museum and heritage centre, while a water sports centre was also under consideration.

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Mr Phillips said he wanted to start the project as soon as possible.

“I’m under no illusions that the people of Plymouth regard Drake’s Island as the jewel in the city’s crown and they want to enjoy it as soon as they possibly can – indeed, we want the island to be open to the public as often as possible,” he said.

Mr Phillips said he would be working with disabled charities to improve access to the site, which is roughly the size of four football pitches.

Drake’s Island

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Jones Lang Lasalle

  • The island was named after Sir Francis Drake, who set sail from there in 1577 to circumnavigate the globe
  • The fort played a crucial role in defending the maritime city from French and Spanish invasions in the late 16th Century
  • It has been used as a prison, a religious centre, a refuge and, most recently, an adventure training facility, which closed in 1989
  • In 1995 the Crown Estate put Drake’s Island up for sale for £235,000 and eventually it was purchased by former Plymouth Argyle Chairman, Dan McCauley
  • Plymouth City Council turned down a planning application in 2003, meaning the island was left unused
  • In spring 2017, Plymouth City Council granted planning permission to create a luxury £10m hotel with 25 rooms and a spa complex

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