Hundreds back campaign to bring Mersey Bar Lightship Planet back to Liverpool

Riverside Labour MP Louise Ellman has also given her backing to the campaign launched by Merseyside Civic Society after the Canal & River Trust seized the vessel in a dispute over berthing fees. Tony McDonough reports.

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The Mersey Bar Lightship being towed away on the Mersey after it was seized in September

More than 700 people have signed a petition backing the “emergency campaign” to return the former Mersey Bar Lightship Planet to Liverpool.

Riverside Labour MP Louise Ellman has also given her backing to the campaign launched by Merseyside Civic Society.

The society says it is appalled by the “grab and sell” tactics of the Canal & River Trust, which towed the bright red-painted Planet from The Strand, Canning Dock, Liverpool, more than 350 miles to its Sharpness Docks in Gloucestershire.

The trust seized the vessel from Liverpool’s Canning Dock in September in a dispute with its former owner Alan Roberts over £10,000 of berthing fees arrears.

Mr Roberts has now paid the £10,000 but lightship’s towage and storage is believed to have cost the Canal & River Trust around £56,000 so far.

The trust is looking to sell the vessel in a “fire sale” on Friday, Dec 16, for £100,000.

The society desperately wants to halt this “Black Friday” sale so the Planet’s return to Canal & River Trust’s Liverpool’s Albert Dock complex can be renegotiated and launched an online petition Save Liverpool’s Planet: Bring Back the Planet Lightship to Liverpool”.

Ms Ellman, who is also Parliamentary Transport Select Committee chair, told the society that she will initially contact Bob Pointing, Canal & River Trust North West chair, to see what action can be taken to stop Planet’s sale. 

Ms Ellman has also been asked by the Society to take the matter to a national level by contacting Allan Leighton, Canal &River Trust chair, and Richard Parry, C&RT CEO, both based in at C&RT’s Milton Keynes HQ, and also Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for the Environment

Merseyside Civic Society council member Peter Elson said: “This calamitous situation is indicative of the Canal & River Trust’s over-reaction and disastrous error of judgement in the handling of this dispute.

“With the enforced removal of the Planet, in effect the people of Liverpool are being made to pick up the bill for the Canal & River Trust’s heavy handed reaction in spending five and a half times the amount to pursue a now settled berthing bill.

“Why should land-locked, Canal & River Trust chiefs in their Milton Keynes ivory tower dictate the disposal of Liverpool’s irreplaceable maritime heritage?”

The Canal & River Trust has been contacted for a comment.

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