THE leader of Portsmouth City Council is to step up efforts to bring the Tour de France to the Portsmouth region.
Tory councillor Donna Jones has been invited by the Mayor of Caen to attend the start of the 2016 Tour this July in Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, where elite riders will set off.
This is a very prestigious project that would benefit Portsmouth immensely, and I will do what I can to ensure this project goes ahead.Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond
Caen mayor Joël Bruneau wants Cllr Jones to witness the occasion as both Portsmouth and the capital of the Lower Normandy region want to work up a joint bid to bring the Tour’s Grand Depart to the Solent in 2019 – the same year as the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
They want to win Tour bosses over with the thought of elite cyclists riding from Portsmouth to the South Downs before heading to the beaches of Normandy where troops – many of whom from this area – landed.
Cllr Jones says the trip will be the perfect opportunity to raise the profile of Portsmouth and lobby organisers to bring the world’s greatest sporting event here.
Cllr Jones said: ‘The purpose of travelling to France to the Tour de France will be twofold. Firstly, to see what infrastructure is required and to get a feel for the scale of the event and what is needed, before coming back and working out the proper arrangements that would be needed for 2019, should we be successful in our bid.
‘I also want to meet the Tour de France organisers and the committee to talk about the attraction of the Tour coming to the Solent, and further develop relationships.’
Cllr Jones has also invited Tour general director Christian Prudhomme to come over and see the proposed route for riders. She is awaiting a response.
The bid Portsmouth would need to put together could cost up to £1.5m – with the majority of the money needing to be spent on consultants to draw up a huge plan detailing exactly how the city would host the race and why it would be a success.
But it’s hoped Whitehall will cover costs. Yorkshire hosted the Grand Depart in 2014 and millions of pounds was generated for the local economy.
Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond has been asked by Cllr Jones to help lobby culture secretary John Whittingdale and ministers for money.
Mrs Drummond said she will do what she can to ensure the city gets the funding it needs to make its aspirations a reality.
Mrs Drummond said: ‘This is a very prestigious project that would benefit Portsmouth immensely. I will do what I can to ensure this project goes ahead.’