High Court judgement: Bembridge Harbour management responsible for “Tangent” sinking. It will cost the harbour around £400,000.
The motor vessel Tangent sank at her moorings in Bembridge Harbour on 7th October 2017. The harbour’s management claimed that the vessel had been incorrectly moored; the owners asserted that the moorings had not been properly maintained. The judge found that the harbour “breached its contractual obligation to take all reasonable steps to maintain the facilities in the Harbour in reasonably good working order…”.
After hearing evidence from harbour owner Malcolm Thorpe and operations manager Gordon Wight, he concluded that for years they had known the pilings were so badly corroded that the moorings might jam and drag a boat down, but had failed to do enough to prevent it. You can read the judgement in full here.
The harbour’s insurers had resisted settlement and hence the case came to court. The harbour is therefore facing a bill of £118,000 for the boat itself and legal costs that could top £300,000 – around £420,000 in total. It not clear that this risk is covered by insurance in a case defended by the Harbour Company. If not adequately insured the cost will fall on the mooring fee paying public.
This case highlights just one example of the chronic maladministration amongst the wider concerns that have been growing for a number of years, including failures to dredge and failure to repair Bembridge No.1 groyne.
This Trust is advised that over £1,500,000 of Harbour revenues has been diverted ( over and above the legitimate costs of rent and management charges). Proper allocation of these funds would have meant the extraordinary costs of the Tangent case would have been avoided, the Bembridge No 1 Groyne repaired , harbourside facilities maintained and far more of the necessary dredging could have been carried out.
The owners of ‘Tangent’ were able to buy a new boat. Bembridge will not be able to buy a new harbour.
In 2019 Members of Harbour groups, BHAG, BHUG, and BHT met together with the Harbour Company to seek to resolve issues about the management of the harbour. Sadly the Harbour Company withdrew from this process. Since then the Harbour’s condition has worsened considerably.
There is a time-limited and unique opportunity to take action now.
Legal Challenge of Maladministration by the Harbour Company
The Trust is progressing a legal challenge of the mismanagement of the harbour as exemplified by the Tangent case and including the self-harming terms the harbour has signed up to in the s106 agreement with the very recent planning permission.
TO DONATE: please pay direct to our bank at: Lloyds; A/c 00950644; Sort: 30-97-21; Ref BHT JR
For more info on how to donate, and why press here NB: GIFT AID is not applicable at this stage. If you do use the Virgin Giving site for this project donation do not claim gift aid
Planning Permission: The IWC has recently granted planning permission for Thirteen houses on operational harbour land.
This only benefits a property company at the direct cost of the Harbour. A Planning QC has advised that the decision process is seriously flawed and is susceptible to legal challenge, and the recently signed s.106 makes the case even stronger. The Trust gave the Council, the applicant and the Harbour Company every opportunity to rectify these serious flaws, to enable a permission which would be lawful and which would benefit the Harbour, but they failed to do so.
Legal challenge of the planning permission
Reluctantly, it is necessary now to challenge this decision by judicial review to prevent the future viability of the harbour being damaged irretrievably.
What we are asking of you who care about the Harbour
These judicial reviews will be expensive, and we are calling on everybody in the community to join with donors who have already supported us so we can raise the considerable legal fighting fund needed.
We are as confident as it is reasonably possible to be at this stage that our challenges will succeed in bringing benefits (which may not necessarily mean having to go the full distance in court), in which case we will be refunding contributions pro rata to all donors. You can read the details of this and our challenge strategy here. The 70 page legal investigation we commissioned and that gives us the confidence that we are right to hold the Harbour Management to task can be found here , but this is far from the whole case being developed.
We urge you to donate and to see how and why press here.
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