Those of you who attended the AGM or received copies of the BHAG minutes will not be surprised that we now have a revised description of the Houseboat LDC to consider, published on the 12th January.
A Lawful Development Certificate of this type application should seek to confirm what uses have been in place for a qualifying 10 year period by the production of evidence, to support the facts. In this case, yet again an attempt is being made to introduce new land uses in the shape of 9 new “plots” for “Navigable and floatable vessels” whilst these are not in existence and as such are not evidenced. They should not form part of this type of application.
The Pier and Harbour Order ( Bembridge Harbour) Confirmation Act 1963 sets out clearly the uses of Harbour land (covered by water or not). It provides for vessels engaged in navigation to be moored within the Harbour so there is no need to seek any further permissions, if the intention is to moor boats that will not be used as houseboats.
To seek to change the status of vacant areas of the Harbour through the LDC process to provide for 9 new plots (even if not described as houseboat plots) appears to be a Trojan Horse. Once 9 new vessels are in place it is quite likely that they will be used as residential accommodation.
Why do we think this? Because it has already happened at “Rinjstroom”, one of two plots already sold as houseboat plots is occupied full time without consent, 3 other sales are in hand and some 5 large boats (two without engines , mostly unsuitable for the high seas , if navigable at all) are sat on the pontoons and already used as residential accommodation. The moorings are high on the beach and not practical as operational moorings, as larger boats would only float on the biggest tides.
Why does it matter? Because once 9 boats are stationed proper planning control is lost. In an LDC planning application planning policy , environmental impact, parking, sewage, fire risk, means of escape, effect on the flood defence – in fact all and any public debate is avoided, remembering that the LDC is supposed to be based on historic established uses where the impacts have already been absorbed.
What would happen if people lived on the 9 new plots? Enforcement? Unlikely. The IWC have shown no appetite for any action despite existing abuse.
Would there be a new planning application? BHIC has had a planning application lodged for 34 houseboats for about 18 months, but chooses not to progress it. Why? BHT believe they seek to prepare the ground with this “Trojan Horse” application and say they won’t progress the “planning application” until after the LDC is decided. If 9 vessels are already on site or permitted through a misuse of the LDC system that planning application to “upgrade” them formally to long term houseboats would be prejudiced as much of the impact would have already occurred and the ability to consider the impacts much reduced.
Why do BHT worry so much?
1) Have a look at the aerial photo below and try to workout where 8 more boats than are shown would fit in (the 9th “Rinjstroom” already being in place). We think there is practically room for some but not 9. Density and impact should be considered properly in a planning application un-prejudiced by this active misuse of the LDC system.
2) What will happen to the money ? Mr Thorpe has already made clear in formal written submissions that £30,000 per plot and 20% of sale proceeds will leave the Harbour. If so, BHT believe this would be contrary to the Harbour Act provisions and leave the Harbour receiving only about 50% of what should go into improvements. BHIC has already sold a plot to BBS at £1 and the Harbour only recovered £80,000 from assets and connected debtors totalling around £180,000, leaving it out of pocket to the tune of £100,000.
3) There is no binding promise to do anything. As the LDC process should only be confirming evidenced longstanding facts, the consent granted is not conditional at all. There is no mechanism available to ensure all or any of the proceeds end up being used for sewage treatment, groyne repair, dredging, seawall repair, pile or pontoon maintenance or any of the wants of repair in the Harbour today.
4) Does this impact on the Harbour as a whole? Yes it does. BHIC have sought to blur the clear distinction between short term liveaboards/cruising boats and the use of land for the long term mooring of Houseboats. They have done so in this new description and in correspondence with the LPA. A failure to maintain that distinction in planning terms would leave the Harbour Company open to create longterm houseboat plots AND SELL THEM anywhere in the Harbour… Don’t forget how this application started with 10 acres of that Harbour purported to be used for Houseboats, despite that being untrue and the planning officer having already advised Mr Thorpe not to use that plan!… Don’t forget the public cannot track where money goes as Mr Thorpe will not share any accounts beyond the VERY limited information at companies house.
It does not matter what Mr Thorpe says he personally intends to do, any future owner of the Harbour would have the same tempting opportunity of cashing in at the expense of the harbour operationally.
What should YOU do? If you feel as we do please write to the planning office and register your objection to the approach being taken. The application for an LDC should be restricted to the existing long term use of the existing 25 houseboat plots and not include any other attempt to change the planning status of other land or allow any blurring of the uses of Houseboats and other vessels.
You can do this by opening the link : https://www.iwight.com/planning/AppDetails3.aspx?frmId=33712 and using the “comment on line” button. Comments can be made at anytime until 2nd February. As this is a new description and new plan your old comments are not relevant and may not be considered.
Regards Jeremy Gully