CIVIC chiefs have launched a lastditch bid to bring Sir Ben Ainslie and the promise of 1,000 jobs to Southampton.
The Daily Echo can reveal that council leaders have written to the Olympic sailing legend about his plans for an America’s Cup base following opposition to the proposals in Portsmouth.
He had chosen Portsmouth as the site for the new multi-million pound facility, and the plans are set to go before councillors in the city on Wednesday.
But large numbers of residents near the potential site in Old Portsmouth have objected to the plans, with a public meeting set to take place at the city cathedral tonight.
And with the former Vosper Thornycroft site at Centenary Quay, Woolston already having planning permission for a boat-building facility, civic chiefs in Southampton have contacted Sir Ben to remind him the city already has everything he needs to get to work.
As previously reported, the legendary sailor wants to build the base to train Britain’s team to win the sailing event in 2017 which theUKhas not won in its 150-year history.
Plans for the development in Portsmouth
He has said the base could create up to 1,000 jobs and inject £44m of investment into the local economy.
Sir Ben said he had chosen Portsmouth due to its “maritime heritage” and the footfall generated by the ferry port.
But many residents living near the proposed site have objected to the plans, saying they feel the plans have been railroaded through.
Seventy-one objections have been made to the planning application for the site, while a public meeting set to be held on the proposals last Monday had to be postponed as there were too many people who wanted to attend.
Councillors on Portsmouth City Council’s planning committee are being recommended to approve the plans, and the new council leader, Donna Jones, has said that “everyone’s views” must be taken into consideration before a decision is made.
And if Sir Ben is unable to set up the base in Portsmouth, he has said he would consider the site in Woolston, next to the emerging Centenary Quay housing development.
Southampton’s Labour council leader Simon Letts, said he had written to Sir Ben to remind him that the site in Woolston is ready and waiting for use should his plans in Portsmouth fall through.
Cllr Letts said: “First of all it’s really good news that Sir Ben is to launch the first serious British America’s Cup bid for some years and we stand ready to support the bid in any way we can.
“We have a site available at Woolston with planning permission, cleared and ready for use which Sir Ben and his team would be welcome to develop at their convenience.
“This is a bid of national, if not international importance, and if the site in Portsmouth is not deliverable then it’s important this project remains in the Solent rather than going abroad.”
Itchen MP John Denham said: “We always hoped that it would come to Southampton, and if people in Portsmouth don’t like the idea then I’m absolutely certain that people in Southampton would be over the moon to have the America’s Cup base in the city.
“It would be fantastic for the period of construction and the trials, and this is the prime site on the south coast for ship and boat building, so there would be a legacy long after the America’s Cup.”