Former ferry to become floating restaurant

A historic former River Mersey ferry has been given the go-ahead to be converted into a floating restaurant and bar space.

For more than six decades, the MV Royal Daffodil took thousands of passengers across the river connecting Liverpool and the Wirral. Now, more than a decade since she was decommissioned and fell into disrepair, plans for a redesign of the historic vessel have been signed off.

Having originally been submitted in 2019, fresh proposals were put forward to reimagine the ferry – once known as MV Overchurch – into a restaurant, bar and event space. The Daffodil would be anchored at a mooring point located within Canning Dock, leased from Canal and River Trust.

The project is being fronted by directors Josh Boyd and Philip Borg-Olivier, the former Brookside actor. Mr Boyd told Liverpool Council’s planning committee how the pair wanted to use the former ferry to create a “visitor economy focused hospitality destination.” It is expected the ship will now be used for a mixture of uses for events such as corporate events, conferences, weddings, exhibitions and live music.

The external decks would be used from 8am to 10pm while the covered areas would operate until 2am. Part of the bridge deck would also comprise a heritage museum. Mr Boyd said plans were afoot for a 126-cover restaurant and was conscious of its presence at Canning Dock.

He said: “There is a huge regard and admiration for this vessel so it is important to create a scheme which stands up to the quality of the waterfront in Liverpool.”

Potential use as a boutique hotel on the lower deck could be introduced “once the other uses on the boat have become established and successful,” according to planning documents. 

The vessel is currently being refurbished in Garston dock having fallen into a dilapidated condition. Mr Boyd said around “95-99%” of the work to bring the ferry back into working order would be completed there.

Concerns were raised around safety on the vessel, with Cllr Billy Lake questioning what measures were being taken to protect users. He said: “Can we be assured there are provisions to prevent people falling into the water?”

Responding, Mr Boyd said there had been historic incidents whereby people had tried to access moored vessels. He said the project would have 24-hour security, with safety equipment on board and specific staff training.

Further concerns were raised by heritage specialists who felt the works would “fail to preserve the character and appearance of the Albert Dock conservation area and the setting of the grade II listed Canning Dock retaining wall.” The specialist said while there were no concerns over the mooring of the boat, two of three cabinets facilitating services it needs were “not appropriate for this historically sensitive location.” 

Cllr William Shortall added his objection, stating he did not see the “wider public benefit” and described it as the elephant in the room. He said he feared the committee would ignore the issues described by heritage officials.

New member Cllr Rebecca Turner praised the scheme, describing it as a welcome addition to a “culture rich area” and a “really sustainable way of opening a bar, restaurant and a museum rather than opening a new building.”

Image: © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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