Dear Members and friends,
We wrote to the directors of the Statutory Harbour Authority asking four simple questions in the hope of real dialogue. The Trustees have not had a response however Mr Thorpe wrote to our Patrons, calling for Trustees to be stood down and copied his note widely. The Trustee’s response follows:
Dear Mr and Mrs Thorpe, as directors of Bembridge’s Statutory Harbour Authority (BHIC Ltd).
In your latest letter to our patrons you call for them to initiate the replacement of all current trustees. You may have misunderstood the basis and structure of the trust. With every respect to our patrons, we point out that the trustees are appointed by the members following processes set out on our website in line with our certificate of incorporation and approved by the Charities Commission. We refer you to them.
Your letter was a response to our open letter of 28th August in which we asked you four simple but important questions. You provide no satisfactory answers.
- When will the Statutory Harbour Authority explain its dredging strategy? Your disposal licence for the next 10 years is patently inadequate, as we set out here. What are your plans to negotiate a new licence, bearing in mind that due to your neglect of your dredging responsibilities since 2014 this will most likely now have to be via the much more onerous capital dredging application process? You were first informed of HJ Bennett’s possible intention to retire late last year; you were (we hope) fully aware of the vital importance of the work of his business to reducing siltation in the harbour. You oversaw the site being decommissioned, frustrating easy succession, and nearly a year later confirm you are nowhere close to appointing a replacement. What exactly are your intentions and strategy to reinstate that business?
- When will the Statutory Harbour Authority set out its water purity and general environmental strategy for the harbour as a whole? In the summer edition of the RYA Magazine you were reported as saying that your primary objective was to “reduce the amount of grey and black water released [into the harbour]”. You went on to say: “It is important to care for the environment – I’m passionate about this harbour”. We have responded to the RYA to point out that so far you have installed one and only one treatment plant – which does not treat grey water. You have allowed several new live aboard vessels to take up residence in the harbour that also do not have grey water treatment or in some cases any treatment plant. You have dumped large quantities of dredged spoil on beaches around the harbour. Is this an environmental strategy worthy of the name?
- When will the Statutory Harbour Authority fulfil the obligations you took on when you bought the Statutory Harbour Authority in 2011 and carry out long overdue groyne repairs? You say in your recent letter to patrons, which you copied to BHAG and elsewhere, that you “fully support” groyne repairs (largely funded by others), and that repair is “required urgently” – whilst at the same time setting conditions about completely unrelated matters that make it impossible to progress the project. Enormous amounts of time donated by impassioned local residents attempting to negotiate this with you have so far proved fruitless. When will you stop stalling, actually do what you say you will, and fulfil your statutory duty?
- When will you publish a coherent overall management plan? You unashamedly admit that the management plan of the previous owners expired in 2013. You refer to various things that have been done since that would have been included in a plan if you had made one. However, a management plan is not a historical document; professionally run organisations have forward looking plans. Where they have public responsibilities, as the Statutory Harbour Authority does, it is customary, desirable, and strongly recommended by the government that they are made available to the public. When will you do this?
In closing, we remind you of what you wrote in In an earlier letter to our patrons on 1 May 2020:
“The trustees believe they hold the key to the future of the Harbour, whilst having no legal, moral or commercial rights to take any physical actions at all. BHT can only complain and criticise. This is an unjustifiable stance to adopt.”
We invite you to consider the implications of this statement. You (and only you) as the Statutory Harbour Authority have the resources and permissions necessary to save our harbour, subject wherever necessary to the approval of the relevant central and local government authorities. You do not appear to accept that others however have the legal and moral right to make fair and public comment, including complaints and criticisms you may find unwelcome. How relevant authorities and private individuals choose to act as a result of such comment is at their discretion. In the meantime, the “key to the future of the harbour” is firmly in your possession, and we urge you to use it now before the door closes. Time and tide wait for no man.