PLANS to keep HMS Illustrious afloat as a conference centre after she retires from naval service are being hatched, The News can reveal.
A group of residents and businesses from the Portsmouth area are exploring the idea of buying the carrier and converting her into a conference and cultural centre which would be capable of bringing international events to the city.
It comes as city leaders, including MPs and councillors, are calling for a way for the ship to be preserved in the city.
After 32 years of distinguished service, HMS Illustrious is due to retire from the Royal Navy next year.
The Ministry of Defence is now inviting ideas on how best to preserve the ship, and the legacy of the Royal Navy’s Invincible-class aircraft carriers.
Mike Hancock, the MP for Portsmouth South, said: ‘I would love to see her stay in Portsmouth and I would like to see her somewhere where the public can get easy access to her.
‘The navy’s two new carriers will be taking up a lot of space so finding somewhere she can go could be a problem.
‘I would also like to see part of the Fleet Air Arm Museum moved on board her if that was to happen. It would be a great visitor attraction and if you look around the world modern warships do bring in the crowds.’
Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North, also supports the idea of Illustrious being preserved.
She said: ‘I’m really pleased there is an opportunity to preserve her, not just for the nation, but to ensure she is doing something fitting with her naval life.
‘This is a really good idea.
‘I’m aware of some other bids around the country to get her as a floating museum.’
As reported in The News, the Ministry of Defence is looking for ways to preserve the ship.
Private companies, charities, and trusts, are being invited to come forward with their ideas for her future use.
The government wants the ship to remain in the UK and any ideas for her future use must include plans for part or all of the ship to be developed for heritage purposes.
The city of Hull has also expressed an interest in acquiring the ship as a tourist attraction.
A final decision on the future of the ship will be made after she is decommissioned and handed over to the government’s Disposal Services Authority.
Meanwhile, the ship continues on its way to the Philippines to provide disaster relief following Typhoon Haiyan.