Portsmouth To Lose HMS Ark Royal

Portsmouth's celebrating the news that the two aircraft carriers would be built, confirming the city's position as the home of the Senior Service.

However, the cheers were tinged with a sense of sadness at the loss of the Hampshire port's most famous resident, HMS Ark Royal.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Liberal Democrat leader of the city council, said the announcement that the carriers would be built, both of which would be based in the city, meant economic security for the city for years to come.

He said:

"For us, the most important decision is that the new carriers are being built - that means the future of the navy in Portsmouth is assured.

"That is hugely important to Portsmouth because the navy is the heart and soul of the city.

"The only reason Portsmouth exists is to support the navy, if the naval base closed it would have done terrible things to Portsmouth.''

Mr Vernon-Jackson said that 17,000 people worked at Portsmouth Naval Base which creates millions of pounds for the local economy.

He added:

"Although we are sad about some of the individual decisions such as the Ark Royal, the main decision is that the two new carriers will be based here which is very, very important.''

Naval historian Rob Hoole, a former lieutenant commander who served in the navy for 32 years and now lives in the Portsmouth area, said the city was the only viable home for the carriers.

He said:

"The aircraft carriers can only be based in Portsmouth because they can't be based in Plymouth.

"It's good for the Portsmouth area but we shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket, if we had just one naval base it wouldn't take much to make it inaccessible and stop ships coming in and out.''

He added that he felt both aircraft carriers should be made operational to enable constant defence coverage.

Dr Michael Asteris, defence economist at the University of Portsmouth, said the continued construction of the carriers, three sections of which are being built in the city, would secure jobs in shipbuilding and then in maintenance and service.

He said:

"The announcement that the carriers will be built reinforces Portsmouth's position as the home of the Royal Navy.

"Three years ago we had a major in-depth review of naval base requirements and the outcome confirmed Portsmouth was the prime hub for the naval fleet.

"It would have to be a very political decision, and an expensive one, to change that.''

Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, said:

"The most important thing is that 17,000 jobs are secure as we are keeping the frigates and getting the carriers.

"There are 17,000 employees who will be very pleased today, the city will be a lot happier than it would have been.

"I feel we have succeeded in winning our argument in favour of the city and it's a good news story for Portsmouth.''