HMS Ark Royal (Darrel Birket)

Bid for new diving haven in Devon

15th September 2011

Councillors have backed a scheme to turn the HMS Ark Royal into an artificial diving reef off Torbay's coast

Member's of Torbay Council's harbour committee voted unanimously this week on the proposed scheme to sink the decommissioned HMS Ark Royal six miles off the English coast.

The idea was conceived at a local sailing club and thanks to the local charity Wreck the World, a bid of £3.5m has been put forward for the Ark. Charity founder, Michael Byfield, said, "It's been a steep learning curve and there are still lots of obstacles but we feel we are getting somewhere."

It is hoped that if plans go ahead, Ark Royal, which was decommissioned due to government defence cuts, will attract divers from all over the world, bringing an estimated £10 million a year to the local economy.

The proposal would see the aircraft carrier lie 32ft below the surface, making it accessible to divers of all experiences. It is hoped that the Ark will sit upright so that less confident divers will be able to explore large areas of the ship.

Measures will be taken to ensure that the wreck would not pose a threat to shipping courses, and environmental surveys will be carried out to check the wreck would enhance rather than harm marine life.

“It’s good to think that if we can do this, the Ark Royal would still be a guardian of our waters,” said Byfield. “She is such an iconic vessel, it would be wrong to see her just cut up for scrap or suffer some other undignified fate.”

Other plans for the ship have included turning it into a museum or a helipad, or simply just selling it for scrap.

The plan follows the sinking of HMS Scylla in 2004 off Whitsand Bay near Plymouth which generated a boost to the local economy.

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