FORMER naval base commander David Bawtree has spoken of his delight after his plans for a new ‘university of the seas’ with royal quarters received the backing of the Prime Minister.
The retired rear admiral was praised by David Cameron for his plans to build a privately-funded £80m ship that could have quarters set aside for the royal family.
But he has pointed out it would not be a replacement royal yacht.
Rear Admiral Bawtree, who lives in Farlington, approached the government with his proposals for the Future Ship Project for the 21st century.
The vessel would be able to accommodate up to 180 young people and would sail across the world.
Mr Cameron wrote to Rear Admiral Bawtree, pictured below, welcoming his ‘truly inspiring initiative’.
His letter said: ‘This is a splendid idea and you have my full support.’
Rear Admiral Bawtree, who retired in 1993, told The News: ‘It was absolutely brilliant. I could not have asked for a better response. Without government support, we could not go out and seriously ask people for money.
‘Now we have that support we’re now in the process of approaching various organisations and seeing if they will support us.’
Rear Admiral Bawtree is the chairman of a charitable trust which will now seek private donations for the ship, which could be built by 2015 if all goes to plan.
The proposed 650ft ship would provide education and vocational training, facilities for scientific research and a venue for exhibitions, as well as state rooms for the Royal Family.
But Rear Admiral Bawtree played down claims this could be a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia.
He said: ‘The only thing it most certainly is not is a Royal yacht.
‘It’s a national flagship which has the capacity to accommodate the head of state.
‘The passenger accommodation is really rather smart.’
Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has supported the plan and would like the home port to be Portsmouth.
But Rear Admiral Bawtree said: ‘Certainly she will visit Portsmouth.
‘She will spend a lot of her time at sea.
‘She’s only designed to have 10 days’ maintenance a year. A base port is not a fair term for a project like this.’