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THURSDAY, 8th SEPTEMBER, 2011.
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Riverboat man floats idea of a new restaurant By Chris Young
The derelict “Pearl of the Dane” riverboat, regarded as a Congleton eyesore, will become a restaurant again, according to its owner.
Ray Morris told Congleton Town Council on Thursday that he plans to re-furbish the 88 tonne, Danish-built boat.
Meanwhile, councillors will continue to investigate ways of removing the empty vessel from the River Dane.
Cheshire East Council and the Environment Agency are also on the case.
A report to the town council’s Communities and Environment Committee stated that the boat, a former 80-seater floating restaurant,
had been empty for several years, and an attempt to sell it on eBay for £50,000 in 2006 failed.
A build up of silt had caused it to list, and it was a target of vandalism and arson.
Town clerk Brian Hogan said Mr Morris owned the boat and the mooring area, which made it difficult for the council to act.
The report stated: “The Environment Agency has employed maritime consultants Royal Haskoning and a timber consultant to look at the boat. Their verdict is not favourable.
“Mr Morris has commissioned reports from three reliable smaller consultants who have supported his opinion that the boat can be repaired. He says there is a dispute about the type of rot involved and that the timber consultant employed by the environment agency was only experienced in boats moored in estuaries and not in fresh water.”
The agency is also looking at whether the boat was adequately moored, and would not float off to block the river.
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Written by Coun Amanda Martin, who has been in contact with Mr Morris, the report adds: “He plans to refurbish the boat, starting with the building of a new protective dock to prevent silt accumulating and causing the boat to list. He also intends to replace the over planking on the hull. He does not expect either of those tasks to be completed this year.
“Ultimately, he forsees that the Pearl of the Dane will re-open as a restaurant. He says that he has several companies interested in running it.
• —Turn to back page.
Business centre firms will not be pushed out
Firms at Congleton Business Generation Centre will not be pushed out “until they have found a place to go” the local authority has said.
The Thomas Street centre is one of four that were previously supported by Cheshire East Council to help start-up new businesses.
A review presented to a Cabinet meeting on Monday recommended closing the centre for good. It believes there is ample accommodation elsewhere in the town for the businesses affected.
Cabinet members voted to accept the report, but then the meeting was interrupted when a member of the public shouted: “How long do we have to wait before we find out if the building will be closed?”
Although the public speaking time was over, Congleton Coun Roland Domleo, who chaired the meeting, said: “Well we are just receiving a report, no decision will be made today.
“However I am sure Cheshire East will not push anybody out of the unit until they have found somewhere else to go.”
After the meeting a tenant of Thomas Street, who did not wish to be named, said: “What an utter waste of time. Why have it on the agenda if you’re just ‘receiving’ the report.
“I’ve had this report for a month so I don’t know why they are saying they haven’t read it.
“Nobody has told us anything, there’s no for sale board and no one has been shown around the building.
“They say the centre hasn’t helped generate new business but I know that Thomas Street has had 31 businesses pass through since 1997. No one has given us any information, we’re just getting mixed messages.
“The first we knew of it was when we spoke to your reporter and we still haven’t had an update from the council.”
Businesses located at the centre are Balloon Box 2, Complete Kitchen and Bedrooms, security company Revsec and Cheshire Conversions.
The report proposed: “In view of poor location, condition of building and significantly lower occupancy rates than the other three business centres in the borough, the centre at Thomas Street, Congleton, be closed down and the building declared surplus for requirements and offered for sale on the open market or alternatively, the site be considered as a potential site for an affordable housing scheme.”
A spokesman for Cheshire East said that the recommendation made in the report will not be finalised until it goes before Cabinet for a decision. • —Turn to back page.
Junior firefighter Ronnie Chell capped off a visit to Congleton Fire Station by looking the part for this photograph. The three-year-old was all smiles during the fire station’s annual open day where there was plenty of fun - and fire safety advice. For more pictures turn to page 29. (“Chronicle” photo. 3607a/11).
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