PROPOSALS for a new Portsmouth-based royal yacht have been praised by city leaders.
The News can reveal that plans to build a privately funded replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia have been in development with the support of the city council for more than a year.
They emerged following a controversial suggestion, made by education secretary Michael Gove, that a £60m ship could be a ‘gift from the nation’ to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee.
But the audacious new proposals – which are reported to have the backing of prime minister David Cameron and higher education secretary David Willetts – are for building a royal yacht that doubled as a ‘floating university’ at no cost to the taxpayer.
They are the brainchild of Portsmouth resident Rear Admiral David Bawtree, who has suggested the new yacht could be a large tall ship with quarters set aside for the royal family in the stern.
The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said he was in favour of the plan
He said: ‘I have spoken to people in Michael Gove’s office about going and discussing it with him, because I think there is a way this could happen at no cost to the taxpayer.
‘If its home port was Portsmouth then a new royal yacht could be extremely good for the city.
‘The days of just having a ship for the royals are probably over because it is too expensive, but if we could couple it with other things then that would be different.’
He added: ‘It would be almost like a floating university and could be used to train young people. I have known about David Bawtree’s idea for a while and think it is a good one. If it were based here it would be brilliant for Portsmouth.’
The £60m yacht is believed to have already found £10m in backing from Canadian financial leaders and an unnamed £5m private donation, as well as an offer by Foyles to contribute £500,000 for library books.
Conservative council spokesman for culture, leisure and sport, Cllr Jim Fleming, said he agreed that regular visits from the royals would have an impact on the local economy. He said: ‘It would have a double positive impact.
‘Firstly in allowing the university to expand and also by generating interest in the city from outside.
‘We are limited in the amount of space we can use because we are an island and we should start using the water more.
‘And you don’t have to be a royalist to realise that having the royal family down here all the time would boost the local economy.’