Bristol

Bristol Council to pay £1.4m boat 'ransom' for development

The Ebenhaezer barge at the O&M Shed site which Bristol City Council is buying for £1.4m Image copyright Dave Betts
Image caption The council has been in negotiations with the boat's owner for 12 years

A council has been accused of paying a £1.4m "ransom" for a boat which is in the way of a harbourside development.

The barge is moored next to two derelict sheds which a developer wants to turn into three restaurants.

Labour-run Bristol City Council said the deal to buy the boat ends 12 years of negotiations with its owner and clears the way for the development.

But the Liberal Democrats said the move was the "wrong choice" for what was a "ransom strip for our own wall".

The 137ft-long Ebenhaezer barge is moored next to the sheds at Welsh Back in Bristol and is effectively blocking the way for the planned development by Cordwell Property Group.

Image copyright Dave Betts
Image caption A developer wants to transform two derelict sheds into three restaurants

Deputy mayor Craig Cheney said it was a unique situation and that without the purchase, the developers would likely pull the plug on the project.

He said that would mean the council missed out on money from leasing the buildings to Cordwell, opened itself up to be sued by the firm and would have to foot the bill for the urgent repairs of the site, which the company had agreed to carry out.

But Liberal Democrat councillor Anthony Negus said he was "absolutely astonished" the council was to "buy people out for something which should have been allowed for previously".

Mr Cheney said the council would tow the boat away, repair it and then sell it to recover the costs of the purchase.

He added the lease agreement would generate £700,000 for the council and that if the developers withdrew, the council would have to pay £752,000 for the repairs.

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