Ark Royal may be tourist site in Gibraltar

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THE former aircraft carrier Ark Royal could become a tourist attraction in Gibraltar.

Investors from The Rock visited Portsmouth yesterday to examine the iconic warship which is up for sale after being axed in the government’s defence cuts.

They want to turn the Ark into an exhibition celebrating the history of the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Navy.

Ben Marr, of Gibraltar-based real estate and development company Fairhomes, said: ‘We are seriously looking at a possible plan to bring HMS Ark Royal here to put her on display to the seven million visitors who come to The Rock each year.

‘We hope the Ministry of Defence will be most supportive of our proposals – we certainly know the Great British public will be.’

The Gibraltarians are among 17 parties viewing the Ark at Portsmouth Naval Base this week.

Most firms interested in the ship are understood to be scrap metal merchants, but Mr Marr said: ‘It would be a national disgrace if this ship followed her sister ship Invincible, which passed Gibraltar to a Turkish scrapyard just a few weeks ago.

‘We think our international tourists will just love to get onboard when visiting here.

‘But before that happens we have to be sure all the figures work and that is the review we are currently undertaking.’

Competition for the ship is hotting up ahead of the bidding deadline at 10am on June 13.

One consortium is seeking to turn the Ark into a heliport in London. However, its bid is understood to be on rocky ground after the London Assembly told it there is no need for more helipads in the capital.

Meanwhile, the iconic Ark Royal name may pass to a new aircraft carrier being built for the navy. Prince Charles is reported to have privately agreed to allow HMS Prince of Wales to be renamed Ark Royal. This was unconfirmed by Clarence House.