HMS Ark Royal - Diving Wreck?

A former captain of Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal has backed a project to have the ex-flagship sunk as a diving reef off the Devon coast, saying it is better than seeing her towed away for scrap abroad.

A former captain of Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal has backed a project to have the ex-flagship sunk as a diving reef off the Devon coast, saying it is better than seeing her towed away for scrap abroad.

Rear Admiral Terry Loughran, who was at the helm from 1993 to 1994, said the plan by Wreck the World to sink the 22,000 ton vessel and create a multi-million-pound dive tourism industry in South Devon was a better option than the ignominy of her being pictured and filmed leaving UK waters under tow.

The Royal Ensign

He told The News in the ship's home port of Portsmouth:

''Whilst I'm still very sad to see the passing of what was a very fine ship which suffered a premature demise, I'd much rather see her have a proper burial at sea where she will bring years of joy for enthusiasts than have those terrible images of her being broken up in a foreign scrap yard.''

Wreck the World, run by diving instructor Michael Byfield, 40, and colleague James Doddrell, 31, has received £6.5 million from two companies to back its bid to send the vessel to a watery grave just over 30 years after she was launched in 1981.

The Invincible Class carrier, put up for sale online by the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) agency after it was axed by the Government in 2010's Strategic Defence and Security Review, could be in the water as soon as this summer if the bid is successful.

Two companies, scrap metal firm GH Newbery and Son and defence engineering firm A&P Falmouth, have agreed to pay the #3.5 million cost of buying the vessel and act as #3 million financial guarantor respectively, with the Ministry of Defence expected to announce who it will sell the vessel to within the next few weeks.

Although the Ark Royal, which is at Portsmouth Naval Base, Hampshire, could be sold for its scrap metal, other proposals for it include a commercial heliport in London, a nightclub or school in China and a casino in Hong Kong.

The sale of Ark Royal follows that of its sister ship HMS Invincible which was towed away to a scrapyard in Turkey after being sold on the same internet site, edisposals.com.

The reef project, which has the backing of Torbay Council, estimates that the wreck will cost £35,000 a year to maintain for divers, but could make up to £30 million over five years for the local economy.

The figures are based on a study of HMS Scylla, a Leander Class frigate sunk as a diving reef in Whitsand Bay in east Cornwall, near Plymouth, in 2004.

A 125-year lease for a site off the Devon coast has been agreed in principal with the Crown Estate, subject to a winning bid and meeting environmental requirements.

The Ministry of Defence has said HMS Ark Royal is subject to the commercial tendering process which would obtain the best value for money for the taxpayer and declined to comment further until the sale decision is made.

Recently Played Tracks

On Radio: Hannah Clarkson

12pm - 4pm

Text 'SOUTH' to 82122

Hannah Clarkson

On TV: The Perfect Christmas Song!

2pm - 3pm

Watch heart TV

  • Leona Lewis One More Sleep

    Now

    iTunes

  • Lily Allen Somewhere Only We Know

    14:24

    iTunes

  • East 17 Stay Another Day

    14:20

    iTunes

  • Robbie Williams Dream A Little Dream

    14:16

Heart VIP

Local

Autumn Weather

Find your local four day weather report here.

Listening To Radio Win With Heart

Make Heart the soundtrack to your day and you could be a winner with great prizes up for grabs throughout the day.

Follow Heart on Twitter