A decommissioned Westcountry warship could be sunk as an artificial reef off the South Devon coast, a Government minister has indicated.
The prospect of a once Devonport-based Type 22 frigate being deployed as a dive wreck has emerged after campaigners missed out on securing the former Navy flagship, HMS Ark Royal.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced it was selling the iconic vessel to a Turkish scrap metal firm in a £3 million deal.
It appeared to dash the hopes of the Wreck the World project, which wanted the 22,000-ton aircraft carrier to be turned into a diving wreck off the Torbay coast.
But, in a letter to Devon MP Sarah Wollaston, Defence Minister Philip Dunne suggested that one of four Type 22 frigates scrapped by the Government last year "might be more suitable for use as dive wrecks".
The Type 22 fleet of HMS Campbeltown, HMS Chatham, HMS Cornwall and HMS Cumberland were all based in Plymouth, and are expected to be "laid up" in Portsmouth until their final disposal.
Mr Dunne said: "These ships will be declared surplus to defence requirements in due course and it is highly likely that they will be offered for commercial sale.
"Of course, any such sales would need to be the subject of a full and open competitions."
Dr Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, had written to the MoD to question why Wreck of the World's bid had been snubbed. It emerged its submission was placed 5th out of seven proposals for re-use.
The MP said: "I am disappointed Wreck the World has been unsuccessful in its bid to sink the Ark Royal as a diving wreck.
"I realise this would have generated considerable income for the Bay.
"The final point in the Minister's letter does at least open the possibility of a Type 22 frigate being made available in the future."
Bids received for alternative uses for Ark Royal, which as well as a diving reef included turning it into a helipad in the Thames, a museum, and a casino, were "…judged either not feasible or appropriate, or carried too much risk".
The Wreck the World wanted to create the world's second biggest artificial reef in the Westcountry, and said earlier in the week it would not give up. Estimates suggested the wreck would cost £35,000 a year to maintain, but generate £30 million over five years for the economy.