PLANS to retain HMS Illustrious as a museum ship in Portsmouth look dead in the water after the city’s only bid fell through.
The government wants to preserve the Royal Navy’s decommissioned aircraft carrier somewhere in the UK.
A consortium of businesses had put together the only known plan to keep the ship in Portsmouth, but as reported previously, the idea collapsed due to concerns over space and funding.
Now The News can reveal two organisations have been selected to go through to the next stage of the competition.
The Ministry of Defence says it is too soon to say what will happen to the warship or when the ship will be sold.
The identities of the two bidders is being kept a secret but Hull City Council is known to be pursuing its bid.
Donna Jones, the leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘HMS Illustrious played a vital role in British defence over the last 32 years.
‘I am deeply disappointed Portsmouth’s bid for Illustrious to remain here has failed.
‘Aircraft carriers have always been important to the defence of the realm but particularly in this city as this has been their home for many years.
‘I will be taking a keen interest in the other bids for Illustrious in case other opportunities to base Illustrious in Portsmouth arise in the future.’
Hull City Council has put in a bid for the preservation of the ship, but has faced criticism from its residents for spending more than half a million pounds on a riverside berth before the outcome of the competition is even known.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: ‘It is too soon to say what will happen to HMS Illustrious.
‘An ongoing competition is seeking innovative reuse bids to retain the ship in the UK with part or all of it developed for heritage purposes, for example as a museum or tourist attraction.
‘The competition is ongoing.
‘It is too soon to say when the ship will be sold.
‘Two organisations have been selected to go forward to the next stage of the competition.
‘For commercial reasons we cannot release the names.’
Our picture slideshow shows HMS Illustrious returning to Portsmouth for the final time last July
To read The News’ view on this click here.