Dear BHT Members,
BHT are advised that there is good reason to be concerned about the conduct of the Statutory Harbour Authority [SHA]. We served a pre-action protocol letter on the SHA yesterday . This is the second legal action taken by which we hope to address the issues and so secure a better future for the harbour.
These court actions are only taken after all other avenues to secure fairness for the Harbour have been exhausted.
The issues we address are complex. We were recently asked if we could summarise our concerns. We hope you find the following helpful:
Failures to maintain (eg dilapidated groyne, inadequate dredging, negligence case and facilities generally)
- The Thorpes have impeded a publicly funded project to repair of a key groyne, using SHA authority to do the works as a bargaining chip in unconnected negotiations on behalf of another company they own, despite declaring the groyne a priority for a sustainable harbour.
- Existing facilities are being allowed to deteriorate. E.g. A case in the High Court found the SHA failed to reasonably maintain, causing the loss of a vessel (‘Tangent’)
Extraction of SHA dredging and maintenance money into other Thorpe-owned companies
- BHT advisers identify extraction of over £1.5m that the ’63 Act says should have been spent on the harbour over the last 10 years. (Enough to pay for 50,000 cubic metres of dredging and a new groyne).
- Accounts to March 2020 show £867,104 owed to the SHA by other Thorpe companies and an increase of £417,517 in that year alone (approx. 8x advised average annual profit or 2/3 of average turnover). The ’63 Act says income must be applied to perform the undertaking. How is lending money to other companies owned by Thorpes own helping the harbour?
Allowing the interests of other Thorpe-owned companies to override the interest and public duty of the Directors of the SHA.
- Planning: in an “Enabling Development” supposed to help the harbour, the Thorpes negotiated a legal agreement in which the only assured beneficiary is another company they own, and the harbour LOSES most of its operational harbour side land.
- In the same scheme, it appears SHA-owned land is being gifted to the developer, with the SHA to be charged rent for use of it.
- Lending SHA funds to other (Thorpe-owned) companies. (See above) whilst using the SHA’s assets to secure other companies borrowings, from which the SHA sees no benefit.
Failure to perform SHA environmental duties
- Multiple failures, eg dumping dredging spoil on beaches in SSSI and RAMSAR protected sites, environmental breaches/damage in planning applications.
Failure to conform to government guidelines
- Ports Good Government Guidance 2018 applies to ALL SHAs. The Thorpes choose not to comply. In particular they reject the priority recommendation for openness and transparency whilst acting in the broad public interest.
Failure to treat customers equitably
- A plot of SHA land was sold to Bembridge Boat Storage (a company the Thorpes also own) for £1 and sold on the same day for £87,500.
- The SHA bought in a 100ft vessel ‘Newclose’ for £1 in lieu of mooring fees (ie at radically under value) and sold it on at a profit. In normal circumstances any such vessel should be sold in an open process to ensure market value and (after deduction of costs the debtors account squared up). Not such process was carried out.
Bembridge Sailing Club report “The rate of build-up of sediment within the harbour approaches and in the harbour, itself has been dramatic and is escalating significantly; the consequences of siltation are becoming increasingly problematic, raising serious questions over the viability of the harbour within the next decade.“
But it COULD be different
With the SHA’s incomes used lawfully to maintain.
An intelligent and advised programme of harnessing river and tide ( e.g repairing the groyne) to reduce the dredging costs, whilst maintaining or enhancing the environment to mutual benefit… everyone could be happier – including the SHA as a business.
No doubt some capital projects may need conventional borrowings, rational income producing development, or public subscription. If the SHA were run with the transparency directed by government an owner could expect community support if and when the need is demonstrated.
Having exhausted all other know avenues to bring about positive change we are left to pursue the matters in the courts . We hope that rational thought will bring the parties to solutions during that process, when challenges could be withdrawn.
As always please ask any questions you may have .
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