A Natural Environment Research Council plan to ferry the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory across the Mersey is running into choppy water.
The Proudman is due to relocate in September from the Bidston Observatory site on the Wirral bank of the Mersey, to a refurbished building on the Liverpool University campus.
It will continue as a Nerc research centre but will collaborate with the university. Nerc owns 80 per cent of the Bidston site but its hopes of selling the land to fund research have received a setback.
This June, Nerc announced that a property company was to develop the site into flats and houses. It would name neither the company nor the sale price.
The owner of the other 20 per cent of the site - Wirral Borough Council - has put on hold an agreement to sell its freehold interest to Nerc.
The council wants to give a local amenity group, the Bidston Preservation Trust, time to come up with a business plan and feasibility study to acquire the site with public funds.
The trust would "retain it as a public facility with museum and other facilities" and the Proudman building would "remain an educational resource".
While the plans to shift the laboratory are on hold, Nerc will have to pay for security on the observatory site.
During the second world war, tidal predictions were worked out at the Proudman Laboratory in preparation for the D-Day landings, on June 6 1944.
The site is occupied by two listed structures, the 1873 sandstone Bidston Lighthouse, which recently reopened as a museum, and the 1866 Bidston Observatory.