Prince Edward's trip to Leicester is grounded by freezing fog
Staff at De Montfort University worked throughout the night to tell guests that Prince Edward's planned visit to the city yesterday had been called off.
A forecast of freezing fog led to the engagement being postponed amid fears the prince's helicopter would not be able to fly safely.
The Earl of Wessex was due to officially open De Montfort University's £8 million Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee leisure centre, in Duns Lane, and visit two colleges in the county.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said "adverse weather conditions" in Surrey – where the earl's helicopter was due to take off – suspended the visit.
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Speaking to the Mercury yesterday, the spokesman said: "Sadly, the engagements today had to be postponed due to the fact he was down to be flying to the region.
"He would have been departing from Surrey. It must have been adverse weather conditions at the departure point in Surrey.
"All people involved in the programme have been contacted and it is hoped it can be rearranged for later in 2013."
Professor Dominic Shellard, vice-chancellor for the university, said he was informed of the changed plans from the Lord-Lieutenant's clerk on Tuesday evening.
"He had been contacted by the royal household who said that because of forecast freezing fog – they had checked the forecast for overnight and this morning for where he was flying from – they were unable to safely fly. They were deeply apologetic."
Prof Shellard said staff from estates, communications and events teams worked through the night to call off the event.
"We worked through the night to contact people who were coming from far and wide.
"Some people were leaving London at 5am to get here, so we wanted to make sure they knew."
He said he did not know how much the postponement had cost the university, but added "there was very little cost incurred with this".
"The preparations were mostly logistical – it wasn't buying things," he said.
"I've had an assurance most of the costs weren't wasted and we can use most of it when he comes back."
The earl was due to open the leisure centre, unveiling a plaque and watching sports sessions and demonstrations.
"The only cost we are thinking about, which we don't want to waste, is the plaque. It says '23rd of January 2013'."
The plaque cost £498.
"We are going to ask the palace if we can just reuse it. I'm sure he's not going to be fussed," said Prof Shellard.
"People are disappointed. Obviously there is not the level of anticipation as for the Queen, but people were excited."
After the leisure centre, Prince Edward was scheduled to visit the university's Square Mile project, which supports residents in the Fosse Road, Tudor Road, Newfoundpool, and Woodgate areas of Leicester.
He was then due to head out into the county to visit North Warwickshire and Hinckley College's £12.8 million creative arts campus and John Cleveland College, in Hinckley.
Marion Plant, principal and chief executive at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, said: "Staff and students have worked incredibly hard in preparation for the royal visit and I would like to thank them all for their efforts.
"We are looking forward to welcoming HRH the Earl of Wessex at a later date."
The spokesman for the palace said "timings of the visit" meant Prince Edward could not get the train and said the change of plans would see the Earl of Wessex spend the day in his Surrey office instead.
"He will be looking at the papers and paperwork for future engagements," he said.