Important news on the Houseboats LDC
Mr Thorpe’s planning agent confirmed that they were (as BHT said all along) looking to use the ‘Lawful Development Certificate’ application to get the IWC to agree that houseboats sites do not need any planning at all. This would have allowed unlimited numbers of houseboats anywhere in the Harbour.
Thanks to BHT’s intervention the IWC took legal advice that confirmed BHT’s informed opinion. Mr Thorpe and his agent have been told by the planning officer they are wrong and after 2 years, they have conceded the point. One can only wonder what the harbour would look like now, were it not for BHT’s persistence.
This means the LDC will be re-advertised (yet again) this time with a proper description to confirm only the 25 longstanding plots for residential boats. BHT expect to support it.
This is a really significant landmark, saving the Harbour from over development that offered no secured benefits – and it is thanks to your and the community’s support.
For more detail see:
But there is more to be done.
Ongoing housing Planning application / ‘Harbour Regeneration Scheme’
Not such positive news regarding negotiations on the S106 legal agreement that will be attached to the planning consent for these houses and harbour facilities.
The s106 is absolutely critical as it is the only way of ensuring the Harbour gets any benefit at all and profits are distributed fairly.
Having secured the Planning Committee decision last December, after eight months, Mr Thorpe still appears to be trying to find new ways of benefiting the property company at the expense of the Statutory Harbour Co.
It appears that the planners have secured some improvements in line with BHT’s comments on the 7 adverse proposals Mr Thorpe made in May – proposals which financially benefit the developer at the very significant expense of the Harbour. For more detail on this see: http://bembridgeharbourtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/EXTRACT-FROM-BHT-BARRISTER.pdf .
In July Mr Thorpe proposed new heads of terms for the Harbour Company to lease or buy the facilities (i.e. new offices, toilets, carpark) from the developer. These terms would further erode any financial benefit the Harbour Company might have seen.
One simple example: The proposal is to increase rental levels paid by the Harbour Company to the developer (the separate property company that has made the planning application) by 550% or more, from £18,000 to around £100,000 – £120,000.
It should be remembered that the whole premise and legal justification of the ‘Enabling Development’ application was the delivery of otherwise unaffordable facilities for the Harbour Company. Yet now, in complete contradiction, we are be being told that the Harbour can afford to buy (or lease them) after all – and at very at high values!
It is difficult to see how the harbour company might afford such a rental increase, especially when Mr Thorpe says elsewhere that it has an operating profit of just £54,000 and no spare money for maintenance.
BHT is mystified as to how, on Mr Thorpe’s published statements, only £54,000 operating profit is made despite increased incomes of over 74%, plus houseboat plot sales.
Compare this to the last full accounts ever published, in 2005, when Mr Blatch’s team made an operating profit of £127,500 on a turnover of £435,250 – this in a year that saw improvements to property of £58,000 and management and directors’ remunerations paid. It might also be noted that in the previous year, showing a turnover of only £331,200 Mr Blatch’s team nevertheless managed to carry out major dredging.
The Harbour Company got into serious difficulties in later years, when Mr Blatch’s own property company started charging it absurdly high rents.
For anyone looking to fully understand the impacts, a copy of BHT’s submission to IWC on the Heads of Terms is available at http://bembridgeharbourtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/BHT-submission-re-heads-of-terms.pdf
We are often asked why we don’t simply sit at a table with the Thorpes and thrash out our differences, as if our deep concerns were little more than personal spat. We have of course met and will always be willing to engage in meaningful dialogue, but it is against this background:
As a Charitable Trust BHT takes formal professional advice to arrive at its conclusions. We find ourselves so far apart from Mr Thorpe – on what the Harbour Company’s obligations are, on the application of legislation and in relation planning legislation – that all engagements to date have proved futile. Sensible questions on financial concerns (involving large sums) that should be easy for Mr Thorpe to answer voluntarily, are simply met with the reply that he is not legally obliged to answer them.
All BHT can do is present facts and professional opinion to the authorities such as Planning, the Isle of Wight Council and the Ministry of Transport, with whom the decisions properly and lawfully rest.
This is our only means of seeking to protect the Harbour from exploitation, which is why it is so important and so gratifying to BHT that the planners have properly applied planning law on the LDC and seem to have taken account of at least some of the important issues that would otherwise adversely affect the Harbour in the S106 legal agreement being negotiated on the housing planning application.
Trustees took a pragmatic approach to the motion to grant consent on the housing planning application and despite clear advice of an unlawful decision, BHT decided to wait and see if Mr Thorpe would agree a sensible legal agreement, fair to the Harbour. However, despite IWC clearly giving Mr Thorpe every opportunity, the evidence in his responses on the planning file are discouraging, with the officer questioning Mr Thorpe’s introduction of new conditions (favouring the developer) that were not considered at the Planning meeting.
That said, no decision on whether we consider pursuing a JR will be made until there is clarity on the benefit the s106 legal agreement secures for the Harbour Company.
Minister of Transport
Sadly, BHT’s concerns regarding financial management and lack of maintenance have deepened in parallel with worries over the nature of Mr Thorpe’s submissions on planning matters. As such we have written today to the Minister for Transport calling for inquires to be made.
With your continued moral and financial support, we are optimistic of further progress in the interest of the Harbour.
Bembridge Harbour Trust
If you are able to consider a donation to our fighting fund or are a non-member wishing to join, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org