A COUNCIL leader has defended a decision to increase spending on a study involving bringing a Royal Naval warship to Hull after the total cost of the project soared to nearly £250,000.
Coun Steve Brady said the city had to show “ambition” in exploring ways to regenerate after a £30,000 hike in the cost of a report examining options for a “joint cruise terminal and temporary home for HMS Illustrious”.
In January it emerged more than £156,000 has been spent on bringing the aircraft carrier to Hull, including hiring an ex-commander of the warship for advice.
Illustrious, the last of three Invincible-class light aircraft carriers still in service, is due to be decommissioned this year and the Ministry of Defence has said she will be preserved for the nation – saving her from the fate of sister ships Invincible and Ark Royal which were sold for scrap to Turkish ship-breakers.
MPs have backed plans to bring “Lusty” as she is known to Hull as a visitor attraction as part of the City of Culture celebrations in 2017.
Coun Brady signed off the decision to spend up to £80,000 on the study after quotes for the work exceeded the previous £50,000 budget.
The specifications include “updating and building” on a study into a new cruise terminal done back in 2009 by Hull Forward, with further technical assessments, a market assessment to establish the cruise market potential for Hull and design and costing work. The earlier study suggested the economic benefit to Hull from vessels could be as much as £14.3m, including spending on shopping and dining by passengers and crew and port fees.
Coun Brady said contacts with the Royal Navy “had opened all sorts of doors”, including the possibility of a Royal Naval museum, showing the city’s links with the Navy. He said: “Some people will agree, some will disagree, we believe it is the right way to go and we are already seeing the benefits of the investment.”
He added: “The cruise terminal is one we are definitely going to go ahead with because of the potential of cruise ships coming through and visiting Hull. Certainly if you don’t think big in a recession and don’t look at regenerating the city you deserve everything you get.”
Coun Brady criticised Government “dithering” for failing to make decisions about the ship’s future and said they would have to provide a “bounty” to keep her ship-shape wherever she goes.
Leader of the Lib Dem group Coun Mike Ross said: “At some point they need to decide whether this is viable. In principle it sounds a great idea – but in practice I am not convinced it is feasible.”
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the competition to sell Illustrious “if possible for heritage purposes” would take place this year. Retention in the UK will be one of the conditions of sale.
Comment: Page 12.