Civic barge plans refloated as mayoral centenary draws near

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PLANS to build a “civic barge” for the Lord Mayor of Hull are being refloated as the city prepares to celebrate the centenary of the mayoralty.

The idea of launching the vessel has been championed by the current mayor, Coun Colin Inglis, who wanted to use the steel hull of a boat, which has been gathering dust in a council depot for six years, built by trainee engineers.

This idea was sunk after a report at the time said it would cost £200,000, but now it looks as though the project could again be gathering steam after the estimated cost was scaled back to £40,000.

The proposal has been backed by the civic committee and will now be debated by the full council at its meeting next week.

Responding to recommendations by a working party, the committee said it considered the barge an “appropriate project” for the centenary and called for further investigations to see if it could be funded.

It also recommends that although the barge would be gifted to the city’s Sea Cadets, ownership would remain with the cadets’ honorary president – the mayor – so it could be sold in the future if its running costs become a problem.

As well as being employed in the centenary celebrations in 2014, the barge could be used for official visits and during events such as Hull Regatta.

According to the civic committee, the barge, which would take six months to build, may present little risk financially.

Apprentices at Hull Training have already built six and sold them for more than double the production costs.

The cadets have been speaking to businesses and potential sponsors of the project and have been asked to put together a business plan, moves agreed by council leader Steve Brady.

But he said that, although it would be a welcome resource for the cadets, the financing and running of the vessel would have to be carefully managed.

Coun Brady said: “It would have to be self-financing and affordable and it would be terrific for the Sea Cadets if they could use it as a long-term training vessel because they’ve never had that facility.

“No decision has been taken and there would need to be a full business case.

“What we can’t have year by year is any drain on the resources of the council.”

He added: “I want to see all the information I have asked for before any decision is taken – it’s tentative at the moment.

“Major businesses have been approached and it would be a first-class training vessel for the Sea Cadets, but the council has got to be very careful how it moves on anything like this, particularly in these tough times.

“Hopefully the proposals will have the full backing of major businesses in the area.”

Although Coun Inglis is supporting the idea, he would not be the mayor to benefit as he would have handed over the chains of office by the time it was built.

Coun Inglis, the city’s 99th mayor, said: “The 100th anniversary of the lord mayoralty in 2014 is a major event for the city and in the three years we have before it I’m sure the civic committee and future lord mayors will all contribute towards arranging a suitable commemoration of it.”

The mayor also holds the title of Admiral of the Humber and traditionally greets major vessels docking in the city, as he did when Hull’s affiliated warship, HMS Iron Duke, docked in its home port last week.

The 4,900-tonne, type 23 frigate operated off the Libyan coast for three months, and for three consecutive nights displayed her firepower by destroying a gun battery outside the besieged town of Misrata.

Although the 100th mayor will be installed next year, the civic committee is recommending that the centenary of the mayoralty is celebrated on June 26, 2014, when it will be 100 years since the letters patent creating the title of Lord Mayor passed the Great Seal.