Has C&RT admitted that Alan Roberts is 'Planets' owner?

June 2017 - Just over two weeks ago, The Floater revealed that C&RT had sold the Mersey Bar Lightship for a fraction of its advertised price and was now the subject of a police investigation regarding theft of the vessel (Lightship 'Planet' sold for just £12,500 & Now Police investigate theft of 'Planet'). Allan Richards updates the story.

C&RT's response, has been strictly limited. A press release on the sale reads:

“Planet Bar Lightship to be restored by new owner

The Canal & River Trust confirms that the Planet Bar Lightship has been sold to a new owner. We understand the vessel will have some restoration work and will then be offered for resale, meaning that her future is secured.

Chantelle Seaborn, waterway manager at the Trust, comments: "I am pleased that Planet is looking at a viable future. Hopefully a business, group or individual in Liverpool is able to step forward and purchase the renovated Lightship and bring her back to Liverpool under new management when she goes back on the market."

The Floater asked C&RT's national communications manager, Jonathan Ludford for more detail, firstly pointing out that the historic vessel is named 'Planet' and for part of its working life was positioned on the Mersey Bar (not the Planet Bar).

Planet being towed out of Liverpool docks on the orders of C&RT, watched by Alan Roberts - but is he still the owner?

We asked the following questions:

Can you confirm that, after inviting offers of over £100,000, you sold the vessel for just £12,500 as per your email to owner Alan Roberts?

Can you confirm the scrap value of the vessel was £70,750 as per the Braemar Report?

Can you provide the name of the new owner?

Can you confirm that the sale agreement requires the new owner to undertake restoration work and then offer the boat for sale as per your press release (a copy of that agreement would be appreciated)?

Can you please explain why the ship was removed from Liverpool to Sharpness?

Can you explain why all berthing fees were not recovered via court action?

Are you aware that Mr Roberts has reported your seizure of the vessel as theft to Gloucestershire Police?

At first the only response was silence, but when chased up two weeks later, Jonathan Ludford provided a curt reply: “Apologies for not responding sooner.

“I have nothing further to add to the information that the Trust provided in the press release”.

One is left wondering why C&RT has a national communication manager who is the nominated contact point for a press release but is not prepared to respond to questions on it.

Regarding the report of theft to the Gloucestershire Police, the matter has now been passed to Merseyside Police as the alleged offence took place in Liverpool.

Merseyside Police, who attended the seizure of the vessel but have been criticised for failing to check bailiff's credentials and possession of a court order, are reportedly trying to pass off the matter as a civil dispute. Perhaps, that was to be expected, in light of the force's earlier failures.

What has rather set the cat amongst pigeons, is what appears to be an admission that Alan Roberts is the real owner of 'Planet'. An email passed to Mr Roberts by a prospective purchaser reads -

“7 Feb 2017


I don't know where you are at with this boat but I think that C&RT may look at offers lower that 100k within reason. This would give you some spare money for your lawyers to talk to C&RT's and iron this out. I have spoken to them at length and whoever you buy the boat from it cannot leave Sharpness before the whole bill is settled with C&RT be that by you (if you buy from Mr. Roberts) or by Mr. Roberts himself.

Kind Regards

Nick Cousins
Commercial Boat Services”

It is difficult to understand why Commercial Boat Services, who were engaged by C&RT to seize the boat, move it from Liverpool to Sharpness and then sell it, would suggest that 'George' could buy the boat from Mr Roberts. Unless, of course, C&RT accepted that Mr Roberts was the owner.

But sell It C&RT did for just £12,500, complaining loudly that the low price was Mr Roberts fault for claiming ownership,

Photos: (1st) Planet being towed out of Liverpool docks on the orders of C&RT, watched by Alan Roberts - but is he still the owner?, (2nd) Planet had become such an iconic feature of :Liverpool that it is the focus of a specially commissioned tableaux of the docks in Liverpool's new museum, (3rd) The empty dockside mooring where Planet was once a much-loved Liverpool landmark.

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