Dear BHT members
We write with an important update on all things Harbour.
Harbour Housing Scheme Planning legal agreement (s106) and legal advice
Since the December planning committee meeting Mr Thorpe has been negotiating the proposed planning agreement [s106] in connection with the housing scheme.
You will recall the s106 effectively determines the apportionment of profits, who gets the use and value of the “improvements” and should ensure their delivery. Proper drafting of this agreement is fundamental to complying with the terms of the planning committee motion to grant consent (subject to the s106). This “Enabling Development” would otherwise be contrary to planning policy and open to legal challenge.
Sadly, all the amendments Mr Thorpe seeks appear to disadvantage the Harbour Company and undermine the delivery of benefits, whilst profiting the separate development company. Mr and Mrs Thorpe are directors and shareholders of both Companies with potentially conflicting interests.
On advice, the Trustees believe this is contrary to the Planning Committee decision – the specifics, planning policy and the general rationale of the development Mr Thorpe presented to the community. We continue to press hard for fairness for the Harbour.
We have received a QC’s legal opinion confirming their formal view that the decision process, leading to this second Planning Committee motion, is flawed and unlawful on three main grounds. There are other procedural matters that we are advised compound those grounds as would failure of the planning authority to deliver benefits agreed through the s106 drafting. The legal opinion is available at http://bembridgeharbourtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/BHT-Opinion-of-Richard-Kimblin-QC-and-Nina-Pindham-24.5.18.pdf
It is important to note that BHT’s overall aim is to see the Harbour gets a fair deal, and in this matter the only tools we have at our disposal are the planning process and legislation, and as a last resort to consider Judicial Review.
Our currently preferred option is to see a robust s106 that ensures proper allocation of proceeds and delivery of the agreed benefits to the harbour and we continue to press for this. Once the ‘planning decision notice’ (with the final s106 terms) is issued we will make a decision about how to proceed based on the social merit (i.e. is it good for the harbour?) of the whole package, rather than just its legal merit as a case. At that time, we will be considering Judicial Review only if we believe it will ultimately lead to a better deal for the harbour.
As things stand the advice we have is that the s106 draft is prejudicial to the Harbour’s best interest, its sustainability, and in conflict with the Planning Committee decision. We watch closely as clearly the quality and enforceability of the agreement impacts on just how damaging the scheme is.
Harbour Houseboat planning LDC
With all the factual evidence in hand for at least four and a half months (arguably eleven), we press the IWC to conclude this two and quarter year process. The only legally correct certificate is one confirming the qualifying existing Houseboats and other land in general harbour use as demonstrated. We are rather mystified, but a major reason for the delay is the harbour authority’s apparent reluctance to acknowledge that 25 houseboats have been there for the qualifying period of 10 years, which the Harbour Authority knows as it granted all the leases. First the Harbour Authority applied for an unlimited number, and when the Council refused, it amended the application for 34 houseboats and other vessels, which is still not right. BHT can only speculate as to the reasons for this.
For further information see our recent submission to planners: http://bembridgeharbourtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/BHT-submission-to-Richard-Holmes.pdf
The GMB union have become interested in the financial management of the Harbour. Apparently, after concerns were expressed by local members they made inquiries. These included asking BHT some questions. We welcome all interest in the wellbeing of the Harbour and were of course happy to direct them to information in the public domain to help their own investigations.
This led to a motion being put to their National Congress to press for the Minister of Transport to call for audit. For further information see www.gmb-southern.org.uk/news/gmb-congress-call-on-secretary-of-state-for-transport-to-use-powers-to-investigate-finances-of-bembridge-harbour-company-in-isle-of-wight .
Mr Thorpe responded with a press release, and a letter circulated to members of Bembridge Harbour Advisory Group (BHAG). In this he states that BHT misled the GMB. He also implies that Trustees of BHT (and specifically myself) were behind the union’s decision, somehow having the power to call for and then swing a vote at GMB National conference! This seems derisory as well as disrespectful to GMB’s decision making processes and we leave GMB to respond to that one.
We responded to Mr Thorpe’s note replying to BHUG and copying in Mr Thorpe and others we thought appropriate. This response includes a note of the 7 specific changes to the s106 that our legal advisers have identified to the Planning Authority as against the interests of BHIC (the Statutory Harbour) and, by contrast, exclusively benefiting the developer. See http://bembridgeharbourtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/COPY-LETTER-TO-BEMBRIDGE-HARBOUR-USER-GROUP.pdf
No 1 Groyne
Michael Macinnes, in particular, continues his especial efforts to see reinstatement of the groyne. He is battling through a virtual obstacle course, working closely with BHUG and BHIC in a concerted effort to progress this vital project at the earliest. As always, BHT work hard to promote positive initiatives for the Harbour.
BHT as Southern Co-operative chosen fundraising partner
As you may know, BHT was named as Bembridge Co-operative’s chosen charity for 2018. As such we are running a special fundraiser in aid of the Groyne Project, along with a schedule of small fundraiser events, celebrating the Harbour and its environment. If you would like to take part in, or help with, any of these events – do get in touch. Please pick up one of our special leaflets from the Bembridge Co-op store or see http://bembridgeharbourtrust.org/2018-family-events/
Please note that you are receiving this newsletter as you kindly responded to our GDP email. However, in the way of these things not everyone has, which means many people who ought to see this important newsletter won’t. We therefore ask that you share this with anyone you think should see it, whether or not they are a member (perhaps with an invitation to become a member if they aren’t already).
Get well soon
Finally, I am sad to report that BHT Secretary, is unwell. I know you will join me and the Trustees in wishing her a speedy recovery.
As Chair on behalf of the board of Trustees:
Jeremy Gully, Michael Macinnes, Sara Smith, John Raymond, Chris Attrill, Felix Heatherington