New use much better than her becoming razor blades

COMMENT: University has to prove it offers value for money

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So did you recognise the famous Portsmouth-based ship on the front page today?

At first glance, she certainly looks very different from the floating naval fortress that has sailed the world for more than 30 years.

Without her familiar masts and funnels and fitted instead with three modern sail-like forms on her flight deck, the carrier HMS Illustrious could be heading for a very different future.

The artist’s impression of what Lusty might end up looking like when she is no longer on duty has been created by a partnership of design firms.

They say the inspiration for the new-look Lusty comes from majestic clipper ships and we can certainly see that seafaring heritage in what they have produced.

James Roy, yacht design director at BMT Nigel Gee, talks of ‘recognising the importance of preserving such an iconic vessel’ and we would go along with that.

We also like the firm’s idea of Lusty being used as a kind of Commonwealth yacht, whether as a vehicle for promoting trade and attending international events or perhaps being called upon to help in humanitarian and disaster relief work around the globe.

There are proposals already submitted for what Lusty could be used for when she is taken out of active service later this year.

They include one from a group of Portsmouth-based businesses, who want to turn her into a floating conference centre plus a museum, art spaces, galleries, places to eat and a hotel.

And there’s also still time for other interested parties to come up with their visions and submit them to the Disposal Services Authority to be assessed.

Of course they will need the right level of funding to make them a reality – and we’re talking several million pounds here.

But we remain hopeful that a deal can be done and that Lusty can live on in a different guise.

Because that would be far better than her meeting an undignified end by being turned into tin cans and razor blades – the sad fate that has befallen her once-mighty sister ships Invincible and Ark Royal.