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Birth of a new Planet

Historic Bar Lightship to become floating B&B

Written by . Published on September 18th 2012.

Birth of a new Planet

The UK’s last working lightship – rescued from a breaker’s yard – is to be transformed into Liverpool’s newest bed and breakfast hotel. 

Liverpool Planning Committee today (Sept 18) gave the go-ahead for the lightship Planet to become an eight-cabin floating hotel, heritage centre, restaurant and bar. 

The 52-year old vessel, a familiar sight anchored in Liverpool’s Canning Dock, just opposite Liverpool ONE, has been living on borrowed time since being decommissioned 23 years ago. 

Local businessman Alan Roberts, who bought the Planet from Manchester music promoter Gary McLarnan, says the lightship now has a bright future. 

Alan RobertsAlan RobertsThe plan faced opposition from several residents living in the One Park West apartment block opposite the dock. They raised fears about loud music and noise from the proposed late night bar. 

Planning officers said a string of conditions have been imposed to control any potential nuisance from noise.Mr Roberts re-mortgaged his home to raise money for his dream project after hearing the Planet was up for sale. 

It was built for the old Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and anchored at the Mersey Bar to guide ships from across the world heading to the Liverpool. 

The Planet’s powerful light was visible for 20 miles out into the Irish Sea and its foghorn could be heard 10 miles away. 

It was the last thing crews of thousands of ships saw before hitting the open sea, and a welcome sight for ships arriving in the Mersey from every continent. 

In 1972, the Mersey Bar Lightship, as it was known, was replaced by an automatic navigational buoy. It was then transferred to Trinity House and continued to operate as a manned lightship around the UK coast. It was finally decommissioned in 1989 after working in the English Channel, off the Channel Islands. 

Mr Roberts, who travelled the world as a submarine metal specialist, said: "The Planet is a fabulous piece of Merseyside’s maritime legacy, the very last of the old manned lightships vital to the safety of shipping around our shores. 

Cabin feverCabin fever

“Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the first guidance lamp for Mersey bound ships, and saving the very last lightship will be a fitting tribute.

"In the darkest days of World War II, the Planet’s predecessor was the waiting point for convoys of merchant ships before they made their dash across the Atlantic. 

"Now I have planning permission I can ensure the much loved Planet will have a new life. It will also give visitors to Liverpool a chance to learn something about our maritime history, as well as a most unusual hotel, using the original wood-panelled cabins." 


Bar facts

  • Councillors in Liverpool first suggested a "light" at the approaches to the Mersey in 1759. It wasn’t until 1813 before the first light was provided,

  • The 500-tonne Mersey Bar Lightship, the Planet, was built in 1960 by Philip and Son of Dartmouth.

  • It had a crew of eight and was anchored 15 miles from the Pier Head.

  • Santa Bar Lightship
    Santa made sea journey every year to the Planet to ensure the crew was not forgotten at Christmas

  • The light had a 658,000 candle power – visible 20 miles away.

  • Planet replaced the lightship Alarm, first anchored at the Bar in 1913.

  • In 1972 Planet was replaced by a Lanby buoy – a Large Automatic Navigational Buoy.

  • Planet was finally retired in 1989. Three years later it was rescued from a breaker’s yard.

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Old BuoySeptember 18th 2012.

When I was tiny my dad took me around the docks on a Sunday afternoon, We walked around a corner and there was Planet brand new, the biggest, brightest reddest thing I had seen in my short life, I have never forgotten that astounding sight.

Iain ScottSeptember 19th 2012.

What is it about people who choose to live in ths city centre and then complain about possible noise?!

SaladDazeSeptember 19th 2012.

Will there be tide marks in the baths?

Paul WardSeptember 19th 2012.

If you're living in One Park West you're a chav or a wannabee so who cares what you think.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 1st 2013.

fuck off you wanker

Yaffle ChucklebuttySeptember 20th 2012.

Good luck to Mr Roberts. Just ignore the people in One Park Bench. If they had instead bought a house in the country they'd complain about the cows going "Moo!"

Liverpool WagSeptember 20th 2012.

Well they do also live opposite Playground. Plenty of cows in there going moo

1 Response: Reply To This...
Prof. ChucklebuttySeptember 21st 2012.


Diana TerrySeptember 20th 2012.

Great to see the old being transformed into the new. Just to work on myself now!

Diana Terry shared this on Facebook on September 20th 2012.
Rough HouseSeptember 20th 2012.

I hear that the MOBO awards might be coming back to the Echo Arena. Can we expect a replay of the knives-and-broken-bottle action in the Hilton that took place at the last one?

Shipmates aboard Planet ought to complain about the noise.

I used to think that Hilton Hotels were upmarket.

Rob DansonSeptember 21st 2012.

Wow what a great idea from a local businessman. Turn some heritage into a . . . . Bar! judging by the techno-trance music his "guests" will not be using the beds for sleeping. The idea should sink without trace.

Elizabeth QuinceSeptember 21st 2012.

There was a hell of a racket when I drove by the other night - dreadful techno trance music and a dirty big Radio City banner. It was like some sort of corner of Concert Square had found its way to the Waterfront. With that and the ugly Neptune Buildings to look at on Mann Island, no wonder the people of One Park West are fed up

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