COVERING LETTER (Read the FULL UPDATE here)
Dear BHT Member
Pressure is mounting on the Department for Transport (DfT) to announce an inspection of the financial and operational affairs of the harbour. This is by far the most promising route to achieving the clarity around the financial situation of the harbour which the community so badly needs and deserves.
In December Lord Whitty asked for a DfT inspection of Bembridge Harbour in a written question in the House of Lords. We are aware of ongoing correspondence between Lord Whitty and DfT ministers and officials. On 4 April 2019 we received a letter from the DfT telling us to expect an answer to our questions as soon as Lord Whitty had received a definitive answer to his question – which is parliamentary protocol.
You can add your voice: write to the government yourself, and encourage others to do likewise. The more letters we can get from different informed and concerned sources, the more likely we are to achieve this vital breakthrough. To help you, here is a two page summary of the case for an inspection and who to contact.
In the roundup of recent events which is attached we provide you with an update on:
- Harbour authority 2018 accounts, which show a huge loan to another Thorpe company – when the ’63 Harbour Act dictates that funds are to be applied only to the harbour’s needs. At the same time it claims to be short of cash.
- Unequivocal statement from Mr Thorpe that he does not intend to comply with government guidance for ports on financial transparency
- Public meeting in November to discuss the harbour, called and chaired by Sir Paul Kenny. Over 100 attendees expressed their hopes and concerns and Sir Paul later met with Mr and Mrs Thorpe, only to be advised that they would not share any more information.
- New applications submitted for houseboat moorings – without the sewage upgrade and with no guarantee the harbour will benefit, as previously promised by Mr Thorpe
- Further attempts by Mr Thorpe to change the terms of the s106 planning agreement proposed on development of harbour land, in his favour. The negative effect on the harbour could be very substantial indeed – quite possibly in the region of £1 million.
- Continuing lack of agreement on repairing the groyne to slow the rate at which the harbour silts up
- No progress on providing proper sewage treatment facilities in the harbour
- Further delays in conventional dredging– for unclear reasons. At the end of April however a Nigel Bennett digger was used over several days to dig out the mooring pool in front of Bembridge Sailing Club, depositing the spoil on the beach.
On a happier note, in support of the Trust’s active promotion of the groyne project over many years, the Trustees were delighted to hear that the local community and Co-op foodstore have raised £650 towards the project from The Trust’s fundraising appeal, adding to the personal contributions and pledges from Trustees and members.
Over the years there have been requests from a number of groups – the Trust prominent amongst them, but far from alone – that the harbour follow the guidance of the DfT and produce and publish a strategic plan. This would make clear the extent and trajectory of siltation; set out proposals to deal with it by dredging and through essential repairs like the groyne; set goals for the reduction of pollution, and state clearly and openly what revenues are expected and how they are proposed to be spent.
The Trustees are always ready to talk to Mr Thorpe. He, on the other hand, has declined to provide any meaningful financial information, refused an invitation to attend a public meeting, and made it quite clear in a recent email that he has “no intention at all of meeting BHT in its current format”.
We repeat our pleas for a more positive and open way forward; with known common goals, we can work hard and cooperatively to achieve them. We therefore continue with our work in this spirit – as constructively and hopefully as we can.
As ever, please feel free to get in contact with me or any member of the Trust with your comments
Jeremy Gully as Chair BHT