Bristol

Bristol CIty Council's £1.4m 'ransom' barge payment to go ahead

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 is to go ahead with spending £1.4m on a boat, which is in the way of a harbourside development, after a challenge to the decision failed.

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

Labour-run Bristol City Council approved buying the boat earlier this month after 12 years of negotiations.

A committee voted to take no further action after opposition councillors challenged that decision.

The 42m-long (137ft) 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.

The council's cabinet approved the plan to buy the boat and its mooring, relocate it and pay for legal and other associated costs, after hearing the developer was threatening to pull out unless it was moved soon.

Cabinet members were told if the deal fell through the council would lose more than £1.45m in lost lease payments, the cost of repairs to the sheds and possible compensation for the developer.

The council was accused of paying a "ransom" for a boat by opposition councillors.

Five councillors requested the decision be "called in", arguing that it was not made according to council rules.

They said cabinet members did not have enough details about the costs and legal advice to make an informed decision, including how officers arrived at the £1.4m sum.

They argued there was no evidence that nearby property and boat owners, or the harbour master, had been consulted.

They said an option of revoking the agreement with the developer, paying compensation and re-tendering the contract had not been considered.

But a call-in committee voted by five votes to two to take no further action, and not send the matter to full council.

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