Sir Ben Ainslie’s plans for America’s Cup base in Portsmouth spark opposition

FUTURISTIC An artist's impression of the proposed new sailing base in Old Portsmouth
FUTURISTIC An artist's impression of the proposed new sailing base in Old Portsmouth

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A COMMITTEE has been formed to fight a proposal for a futuristic sailing base in Old Portsmouth, put forward by America’s Cup hopeful Ben Ainslie.

The move follows a public meeting of more than 200 people at the Royal Naval Club this week.

People spoke out against the design of the proposed building at the Camber dock, which would be at least 25m high and tower above the nearby Bridge Tavern.

Old Portsmouth resident Malcolm Hill, chairman of the new committee, said the planning permission process was being rushed through by Portsmouth City Council.

He said: ‘I don’t like the way this has been railroaded through and taken as a fait accompli. The public seems to have been kept out of it.

‘From the number of people at the meeting this clearly a sensitive issue.’

Mr Hill said there were better sites for the base around Portsmouth Harbour, including at a disused naval basin near the submarine museum in Gosport, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence.

He said the HM Naval Base near the Historic Dockyard would also be a suitable site, and said: ‘This project is going to generate a lot of interest so it might be appropriate to take it to where the tourists are.’

A Ben Ainslie Racing spokesperson said: ‘We understand everyone will have differing views on the design of the building, some people are very positive to the modern design.

‘Within Portsmouth there is a great mix of old and new architecture that sits together well and this is a further example of the same.’

The spokesperson said no sites in Gosport were being considered for the base.

‘After an extensive search of the Solent area, no suitable site was found in Gosport that meets all the team’s needs.

‘The other sites that have been identified are in Southampton.’

Gosport mayor, Councillor John Beavis, urged Ben Ainslie’s team to consider basing his America’s Cup bid in the borough.

Cllr Beavis said: ‘It’s the closest site to that deep water on the Solent which is exactly what Ben Ainslie needs.’

Cllr Beavis said Gosport was already home to several world-class sailing teams. To have Ben Ainslie Racing as well would be a real coup.’

The MoDefence was unavailable for comment.

Mr Hill there would be another public meeting about the plans on June 11.

Workers pre-empt planning permission at the Camber

RESIDENTS at the meeting about Ben Ainslie’s proposed base expressed anger that some work seems to have already started on the project, even though planning permission has not yet been given.

Old Portsmouth resident Richard Blair said workers had already fenced off a public carpark near The Bridge Tavern.

Mr Blair said this was being done on behalf of the firm, KB Boats, which had an agreement to relocate across the Camber to make way for the base, although there is no suggestion that any rules have been broken.

He said: ‘They had put up fencing, about six foot high over the whole of the public car park.’