DEFENCE secretary Sir Michael Fallon has shut down last-ditch efforts to save HMS Illustrious – including a proposal to transform the veteran aircraft carrier into a ‘UK centre for powerboats’.
The Tory government official says there’s no hope left to resurrect Lusty – as she is affectionately known – after years of unsuccessful negotiations over her potential reuse.
It’s always part of the Royal Navy’s strength to reflect on it’s history, but it’s working to move forward. These two carriers, dwarf Illustrious in size and is more powerful.Defence secretary Michael Fallon
It comes despite an 11th hour bid by Portsmouth ocean racing veteran Alan Priddy to use the ship as a state-of-the-art facility specialising celebrating the world of powerboats, which could include space for a Falklands attraction.
And he’s called on the government to ‘delay’ Lusty’s departure – and reopen the bidding process.
Yet speaking to The News during a visit to Portsmouth’s naval base ahead of the arrival of the first of the Royal Navy’s two new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, in spring next year, Mr Fallon said: ‘We searched for two years to see if there was an alternative use for HMS Illustrious, which played a great part in our Royal Navy.
‘But no viable bid came forward, and Illustrious will be sold.
‘But, she will be replaced by these two enormous carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
‘It’s always part of the Royal Navy’s strength to reflect on its history, but it’s working to move forward.
‘These two carriers dwarf Illustrious in size and are more powerful.
‘She is being replaced and that’s the big plan.
‘In just a few months’ time, we will see the first of the two big navy aircraft carriers come to life.’
Mr Priddy’s ‘rival plan’ comes after East of England MEP David Campbell Bannerman’s plan to transform the ship into a Falklands attraction was dismissed by former Lusty commanding officer, Vice-Admiral Bob Cooling, who pleaded with the public to let her go.
In a letter to Mr Fallon, Mr Priddy said: ‘I am currently discussing a rival plan with potential funders that would see Illustrious remain in Portsmouth, but deliver similar benefits to wounded and injured veterans.
‘Alongside a dedicated Falklands Museum and affordable accommodation for veterans, the plan I am discussing would see the development of a dedicated UK national powerboat centre, based on the ship.
‘Ultimately the plan would be to create a bespoke powerboat-training centre that would provide courses on everything from basic seamanship skills to repair and construction of the boats.’