Hundreds voice support for Sir Ben Ainslie’s plan for a Portsmouth base

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SIR Ben Ainslie was met with a huge applause as he outlined the vision for his America’s Cup base in Portsmouth.

Hundreds of people turned out at Portsmouth Cathedral last night as they listened to his plans for the headquarters at the Camber Dock.

Ben Ainslie supporters outside Portsmouth Cathedral- (left to right) Sara Knox-Johnston, Sam Lloyd, Rod Edwards, Lyndsay Edwards, Sandra Scott, Christine Wheeler and David Lloyd ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (141706-5935)

Ben Ainslie supporters outside Portsmouth Cathedral- (left to right) Sara Knox-Johnston, Sam Lloyd, Rod Edwards, Lyndsay Edwards, Sandra Scott, Christine Wheeler and David Lloyd ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (141706-5935)

Alan Scott, 68, of Broad Street, was handing out posters in support.

He said: ‘It’s just a fantastic opportunity for the city.

‘Sir Ben is a global name. To have that on our doorstep – it would just be catastrophic not to have it.

‘It’s a fantastic opportunity not only for the city of Portsmouth but Old Portsmouth in particular. That area is pretty much derelict and run down at the moment.’

Sir Ben wasn’t in short supply of support last night as veteran sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who lives in Old Portsmouth. He said: ‘This is something I think will be very good for the economy. As a resident I’m absolutely delighted.’

As reported, city planners have advised councillors on the planning committee to approve the designs at a meeting tomorrow. Around 1,000 jobs could be created and bring £45m to the local economy.

John Santy, 50, of St Ronan’s Road in Southsea won rapturous applause after praising the plan.

He said: ‘Ben has chosen Portsmouth for a good reason. It’s a fantastic venue.

‘The building’s for the rest of the world as well as the city.’

Mr Santy said the base was a huge opportunity but added that Ben Ainslie Racing could compromise on the size of the building.

Others in the meeting raised concerns about the size of the building but none said they did not want the headquarters.

Retired navy Commodore Mark Best, of High Street, Old Portsmouth, said whatever is built must have long-term sustainability.

He said: ‘Ben’s just got enough money to get in the America’s Cup but the council has got to get behind performance yachting here as an industry.’

Sir Ben appealed for support from the people of Old Portsmouth and beyond.

He said: ‘I’m impressed by the passion of the local residents.

‘We need the support from all of the residents. It’s going to be a tough enough challenge. We want to really do something for the area for the local economy, for the young people.’

Council has already spent £700,000 on bid

The City Council has already spent £700,000 on securing the Ben Ainslie base for the city.

Leader Donna Jones told the meeting last night that the payouts had gone on compensating firms that would have to move and behind-the-scenes work. In total, there is £1.4m earmarked for the bid.

‘I’m not pleased with the way things have been done in the Camber,’ said Cllr Jones.

‘But we needed to plan for this going forward.’

She told The News that part of the £700,000 had gone to KB Boatpark and Johnson’s Fisheries, which have had to relocate.

She added: ‘We will get that money back if Ben Ainslie comes to Portsmouth.’

The council will get the cash back if Sir Ben wins £9m of funding expected.

Cllr Jones said that work had already started but the planning application had not been predetermined.

She said if the Ben Ainslie Racing plans are approved tomorrow at planning committee, then demolition workers are due to move in on Thursday.

‘He’s got such a tight deadline,’ she said.

Cllr Donna Jones also sent a clear message to Portsmouth’s rival south coast city when supported Sir Ben Ainslie’s plan.

Southampton City Council, is embarking on a last-ditch attempt to secure Sir Ben’s America’s Cup headquarters if the planning committee say no to him tomorrow.

Cllr Jones told a full Portsmouth Cathedral: ‘I’ve got a message to the leader of Southampton – we do want Ben.’

Opponents fear building is too large and won’t fit in

NOT everyone was willing to fully support the plans.

People voiced concerns about the plans – while also backing the idea of having Sir Ben’s team move in to Old Portsmouth.

Concerns ranged from lack of parking, anger over the council’s consultation period and suggestions that the dockyard be chosen as a more appropriate site.

But those opposed the site were predominantly angry over the size of the building.

Robin Hedderly, 71, of Camber Place, said: ‘The building is absolutely ridiculous. It is a nonsense for the area.’