According to the recently updated report on the recycling of HMS Illustrious, Boris Johnson’s office rejected plans for the vessel to be preserved in London as a heliport.
Illustrious, the second of the three Invincible-class aircraft carriers, was laid down at Swan Hunter on the River Tyne in 1976 and launched in 1978. As the ship neared the end of its fitting out period, the Falklands War broke out. As a consequence, work on Illustrious was greatly sped up. The war was won before Illustrious could be finished. One of the more memorable plans to preserve this vessel however was rejected by the Mayor of London.
The report, which can be found here, states:
“The proposed heritage bids included a conference venue, visitor attractions, heritage museum and a privately-run heliport. From the six interested parties invited, three subsequently withdrew stating:
• The financial backer had pulled out of one project (no reason was given as to why the backer withdrew)
• The costs associated with participating were higher than anticipated, and therefore unaffordable
• They felt there was insufficient time to put a proposal together, but did not ask for an extension to the return date
And one failed to meet the competition criteria.
Following a number of discussions and meetings between the last potential purchaser and DESA, the final bid for the former HMS Illustrious to use the vessel as a heliport on the Thames was withdrawn. The Mayor of London’s office could not support the proposal on the grounds that it would not conform to his strategic plan for London.
This competition was completed in November 2015 as it had not been possible to identify a suitable bidder. All options for preserving the vessel for heritage purposes had also been exhausted. DESA, therefore, recommended to ministers that disposal for recycling was the only remaining viable option.”
The Strategic Defence and Security Review in October 2015 had decided a straight choice had to be made on whether to keep Illustrious or Ocean in a helicopter landing role. As Illustrious is nearing the end of a $40m refit and Ocean is due a similar refit in 2012, it was thought the carrier would be the one to survive in a helicopter landing role, it wasn’t.