Rainbow gate for Portsmouth

Millennium/ Water jet welcome
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The Independent Online
A FUTURISTIC "gateway to Britain", 800ft wide and 300ft high, across the entrance of the country's most historic seaport has been proposed in a scheme submitted to the Millennium Commission.

Continental ferries and naval warships using the port's navigation channel would pass under a spectacular arch of water jets illuminated by rainbow- coloured lasers, said to be the first water sculpture of its kind in the world.

It is the centrepiece of an ambitious pounds 113m project for the year 2000 envisaged by a consortium of local councils and private sector companies at Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Paul Spooner, head of marketing for Portsmouth city council, said a number of companies had expressed interest in constructing the archway. Pumps at both sides of the harbour would shoot water at an angle of 45 degrees to produce the effect.

The arch would be overlooked by a 330ft tower, with a high-level viewing platform and a restaurant. Also included are plans for a new complex to display the hull of the Tudor warship Mary Rose, a promenade, a boulevard to the city centre, a quay for cruise liners and sailing ships, and a network of electric water buses.

Organisers calculate work on the project would create 900 construction, engineering and design jobs and nearly 4,000 other jobs.

The consortium is seeking pounds 49m from the Millennium Commission and is confident it can raise the remaining pounds 64m itself.

Leo Madden, leader of Portsmouth city council, said: "This is a bold and exciting bid. The combination of attractions and amenities will make Portsmouth one of the great harbours of the world, ranking alongside Sydney, Vancouver and Stockholm."

The government-appointed Millennium Commission, chaired by Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, will have pounds 1.6bn from the National Lottery to spend.

Later this month Portsmouth celebrates the 500th anniversary of the construction there of the world's first dry dock. The dock, ordered by Henry VII, revolutionised shipbuilding and set the city on its path to becoming the nation's premier naval port.

But Portsmouth now depends on tourists rather than the Admiralty for its livelihood. At its peak in the 1950s, the naval dockyard employed 26,000 people. Defence cuts and the end of the Cold War have reduced the workforce to 1,700. The 28-year-old frigate HMS Andromeda, the last warship to be built at Portsmouth, was sold last month to India.

With more than four million visitors last year the city claims to be the fastest-growing tourist destination in the South outside London. Three million passengers a year also travel on cross-Channel ferries to and from the port. Portsmouth University calculates tourism is worth pounds 320m a year to the local economy, and that the Millennium project could boost that to pounds 600m.