In this note we update on several issues:
- Should BHT step aside? The harbour sale, and Mr Thorpe excluding BHT as potential buyers.
- Nothing we do should worry a buyer. The negligible impact of our actions on any buyer intent on compliance with legislation and Government guidance.
- Seeking recovery of funds that could have been spent in the harbour. The potential to recover up to £1.75M of SHA funds via the Minister.
- Nationwide damage from a judgement that failed to analyse accounting evidence. The recent JR ruling and potential damaging national consequences.
- Getting a fair land deal for the SHA on land at the Duver
- On the environmental front. Planning conditions on BIL development have been breached already; aggregates extraction from outside agreed areas, and new dredging method tried in Bembridge’s unique tidal regime.
- Funding. We still need your help, please.
Should BHT step aside?
BHT’s trustees had assumed that any independent ‘community interest group’ bidding for the harbour might feel the need to isolate itself from BHT for pragmatic reasons. We have not been able to establish whether one actually exists.
In a recent Facebook post Mr Thorpe set his position: “Any submitted proposals for the purchase of the Harbour that include any involvement of BHT and/or any of the present BHT trustees, such as in their suggested ‘community interest group’, will not be considered”.
As set out by the Thorpes, a BHT trustees’ proposal would not be considered, nor could they even offer active support to any independent (i.e. free of BHT control) bidder that is committed to the public good. The Thorpes clarified, any BHT trustee “involvement” would mean a bidder would be precluded.
We seem to be left to rely on the ‘hope’ that an independent public-spirited buyer will emerge and be successful. Whilst far from ideal, we feel we must await events.
Nothing we do should worry a buyer
Any buyer abiding by Legislation and Government Guidance for Statutory Harbours is likely to face little criticism from BHT. Further, our actions should see the SHA presented to any future custodian in its most environmentally and financially viable condition.
Seeking recovery of funds that could have been spent in the harbour
£1.75m of harbour funds have left the harbour questionably. We wrote to the Directors of the SHA on 15th August giving notice that we expect to contact the Minister of Transport, giving them a month to take up the opportunity to engage and explain or rectify any wrongful extractions so as to avoid further difficulties. We have had no response. Accordingly, we prepare to engage the Minister as advised by the Judge at JR and by King’s Counsel.
Nationwide damage from a judgement that failed to analyse accounting evidence
Kings Counsel has provided a further formal opinion on the wide and potentially damaging implications of the Judge’s ruling, with all the more need for Ministerial attention, noting its potential damaging deregulation of privately operated SHAs that deal with around 70% of the country’s import/export volumes, not forgetting important leisure harbours like Brighton and Portland.
Getting a fair land deal for the SHA
Some land at the Duver is registered to the SHA but claimed by BIL. As far as we can tell BIL’s claim relies on the absurd principle that building out into the sea gives you title to the infilled land. BHT continue to try to get a fair deal for the SHA and have persuaded the Planning Authority to take legal advice noting initial and the new evidence in this report.
On the environmental front
Planning conditions on BIL development have been breached already
On the day of the big news of a possible sale of the harbour, the terms of the harbour planning permission were already being overridden. The Planning Authority confirmed today that “the applicant has written to me to explain that his commencement has been delayed” [in which case conditions would not have been breached]. However, any inspection of the site would prove that incorrect. This is an unfortunate start to the development which we hope is not a precursor to further breaches.
Aggregates extraction from outside agreed areas
Also, the SHA turned a blind eye to the contractors extraction of aggregates way outside the areas agreed between the SHA, IWC and Natural England. Mr Thorpe wrote asserting that the location was not as described – despite photographic evidence. The Trustees are in touch with planners and Natural England in an effort to prevent unnecessary environmental harm.
New dredging method tried
Starting work on 13th September, this dredger agitates the silt on the seabed and up into the water column. It then relies on the free energy of the ebb flow remove it. This method has worked well in Yarmouth with is fast flowing tidal streams outside the harbour. We understand the idea is to create linear flows between the otherwise silt-gathering sink holes (created by marina dredging) and out to sea. A principle often and widely advocated. The ultimate silt distribution in and outside the harbour, and its impacts, remain to be seen.
We need to continue to work with the Minister, Local planning Authority and Natural England on the issues to protect the SHA and see it available in its best condition. Please note that there are significant professional costs involved and we still need your help.
Chris Attrill, Jonathan Bacon, William Bland , Jeremy Gully (chair), Phil Jordan, Norman Marshall, Sara Smith, as Trustees
For and on behalf of
Bembridge Harbour Trust
Donate direct to Bembridge Harbour Trust Lloyds Bank A/C 00950539 Sort code 30-97-21