Culture secretary gave support 'in principle' for Portsmouth's ambition to host the 2016 Grand Depart during a visit to the south coast city

Secretary of state for culture, media and sport John Whittingdale MP has met Portsmouth council representatives to learn more about the city’s bid to host the Grand Depart of the 2019 Tour de France.

The port city has a history of hosting the Tour, having welcomed stage five of the 1994 race; a stage won by Italian Nicola Minali.

The Portsmouth News reports that Mr Whittingdale met Portsmouth City Council leader Councillor Donna Jones and city MPs Flick Drummond and Penny Mordaunt at the Houses of Parliament to discuss plans for the Tour’s potential visit.

“He was very impressed and supportive,’ Drummond said. “I think his only concern was the business plan.

“We’ve just to tidy it up a bit and then I will put the case to the chancellor. We’ve got to make sure that the business case is watertight.”

Councillor Jones added, “The secretary of state was impressed with our engagement with ASO, and with Brittany Ferries, which could be a potential sponsor and carrier.

“With his support we will now be working on developing the costings behind it to present to the chancellor.”

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If the Grand Depart did take place in Portsmouth its predicted boost to the local economy is estimated to be in the region of £100 million. The bid will now have to see if Central Government will support it financially.

London had looked set to host the start of the world’s biggest sporting event in 2017 until Mayor Boris Johnson deemed it too big an investment and pulled the plug.