A LONG-running dispute over the ownership of the legendary Bluebird K7 watercraft has escalated this week after legal papers were served against the current possessors.

The Ruskin Museum in Coniston announced that it has issued legal proceedings against The Bluebird Project and Bill Smith, who have been working on restoring the craft, in their North Shields workshop, since recovering it from Coniston Water in 2001.

Bluebird famously plummeted to the depths of Coniston in 1967, when speed icon Donald Campbell attempted to break the water speed record in it, with both man and boat perishing in flames in the attempt.

The Ruskin Museum released a statement on February 23, announcing the move.

Deputy Chairman of the museum Jeff Carroll said: "It is with regret that we have had to take this action to gain physical possession of Donald Campbell’s record-breaking boat which was gifted to the museum by the Campbell family in 2006.

"We have taken this action with the blessing and full support of the Campbell Family Heritage Trust.

"This action comes only after several years of trying to persuade Mr Smith and his organisation to honour the original agreement and allow K7 to be brought back to Coniston so that she can be displayed in the bespoke Bluebird Wing of the museum which cost in excess of £750,000 to build and equip.

READ MORE: 'So be it' - Restored hydroplane might have to be dismantled

"The Ruskin Museum would have preferred that this matter be resolved without the need to resort to Litigation however we have been left with no choice but to issue in order to find a resolution for all.

"We have not taken this decision lightly and it is very much a last resort to assert our legal rights.

"We have an obligation to the many people and organisations who contributed to the Bluebird Wing - to those who wish see Bluebird K7 in Coniston, to those who donated in good faith to the restoration project, to those who granted planning permission for the Bluebird Wing, and to the Campbell family who gifted the boat to us and wish to see her reside in her spiritual home, as close as possible to her brave pilot."

The Bluebird Project has been invited to respond to this publication.