STRONGER links are to be forged between Portsmouth and Caen in an effort to bolster the Solent region’s bid to stage the Tour de France.
Civic leaders are working on a plan to hold occasions that see the French link up with the UK – in the hope it will convince Tour bosses the epic event’s Grand Depart must come to Britain in 2019.
Caen is very interested in partnering up with us on this bid and one of the things we want to do is work closer together.Tory culture boss Linda Symes
And next year marks the 30th anniversary of the twinning between Portsmouth and Caen, which adds more weight to the campaign.
It comes after Portsmouth Tory culture boss Linda Symes went to Caen at the weekend to discuss with Caen leaders the joint effort to bring Le Tour over.
Cllr Symes said a new ‘peace garden’ could be created with Caen in flower beds at the bottom of the run-up to Southsea Castle – and the French city could join efforts to raise the final cash needed to fund the D-Day Museum’s regeneration project.
Cllr Symes said: ‘Both Caen and the Tour event team like the story of the event linking in with the anniversary of D-Day.
‘Caen is very interested in partnering up with us on this bid and one of the things we want to do is work closer together.
‘Next year is the 30th anniversary of Caen and Portsmouth’s partnership. So we will be looking to do things.’
But Cllr Symes reiterated the Tour de France bid rests on the shoulders of the government – which would need to release £2m for a formal application to be submitted to event bosses – and Tour director Christian Prudhomme who would have the absolute final say whether Portsmouth should host the grand occasion.
Cllr Symes said: ‘At the moment, we don’t know what Mr Prudhomme thinks, we are not privy to that.
‘There are lots of people who have put forward ideas to them.
‘What we have to do is sell him an idea.
‘And what the event team have said is, our story is a significant one. They like a meaningful story.’
But time is pressing as Portsmouth has until the end of the year to secure government funding for a 2019 bid, otherwise it would have to consider another year.
Leaders have said 2019 is key as it ties in with the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and riders would follow the same route troops took to France in the allied invasion of Normandy.