HMS Ark Royal could become diving wreck

FLAGSHIP Ark Royal  when she sailed into Portsmouth for the last time
FLAGSHIP Ark Royal when she sailed into Portsmouth for the last time
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THE Royal Navy’s former flagship, the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, could be moving closer to ending her days as a wreck for divers after the campaign behind the plan received millions of pounds of financial backing.

Wreck the World, which aims to turn the 210-metre ship into a reef off the coast of south Devon, has received £6.5m from two companies to back its bid to send the historic vessel to a watery grave just over 30 years after she was launched in 1981.

The 22,000-ton carrier – put up for sale earlier this year after it was axed by the government – could be in the water as soon as this summer if the bid is successful.

Scrap metal firm GH Newbery and Son, and defence engineering firm A&P Falmouth, have agreed to pay the £3.5m cost of buying the vessel and act as £3m financial guarantor respectively, with the Ministry of Defence expected to announce who it will sell the vessel to within the next few weeks.

Michael Byfield, 40, a diving instructor who runs Wreck the World with colleague James Doddrell, 31, said rather than selling the ship for scrap, probably abroad, it was better to use her to stimulate the local economy in the deprived area of Torbay.

‘With our project, once she is in the water she will keep on giving.’ Other proposals for the Ark Royal, which is at Portsmouth Naval Base, include a commercial heliport in London, a nightclub and school in China and a casino in Hong Kong.