‘Camber in Old Portsmouth was handed to Sir Ben Ainslie for nothing’

Sir Ben Ainslie outside the BAR headquarters on the Camber in Old Portsmouth
Sir Ben Ainslie outside the BAR headquarters on the Camber in Old Portsmouth

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A POLITICAL row has erupted over the decision to hand over prime land in Portsmouth to Ben Ainslie Racing ‘for nothing’.

The Tory-run council has been criticised for spending up to £30m on a property stock outside the area rather than in the city to boost prospects.

I’m not going to be lectured on managing money by the man who gave away £14m of land at the Camber for nothing.

Portsmouth Tory planning boss Luke Stubbs

But Tory planning boss Luke Stubbs says criticism from the rival Lib Dems about spending priorities is hypocritical.

Cllr Stubbs said that’s because when in charge of the council, they never sought to secure serious money from Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainslie, in exchange for a lengthy lease on the Camber for his America’s Cup headquarters.

Cllr Stubbs says the site was valued at £14m, and as Sir Ben has a ‘virtual freehold’ on the building, as his lease is up to 50 years, the council should have demanded cash up front.

And the senior councillor said he had to negotiate hard to ensure BAR starts paying £110,000 a year in rent from the 10th year of its lease, as opposed to the original proposal which was after 25 years.

But Lib Dem group leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the Tories should have ‘walked away’ from the deal before they signed it off in 2014 if they weren’t happy.

And Cllr Vernon-Jackson said it’s no excuse for the fact three properties the council has bought – in Somerset, Swindon and Gloucester – will generate business rates of £614,003 to councils in the west country.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The Tories are embarrassed about giving away this money.

‘They have chosen to buy properties outside of Portsmouth that will generate more than £600,000 of business rates, which the council could have used to stem some of the cuts.’

Cllr Stubbs said: ‘What he’s really advocating is spending without income, which would mean burning through the remaining reserves and 
would lead to a fully-fledged 
crisis when those reserves ran out.’

‘I’m not going to be lectured on managing money by the man who gave away £14m of land at the Camber for nothing.’