Bembridge Harbour Trust (BHT) launch a second Legal Challenge by Judicial Review (JR) in the High Court.
BHT is a charity with the objective of protecting and enhancing the harbour, while seeing that relevant law is applied to help the Statutory Harbour Authority (SHA) manage itself in its own and the public interest.
We launched the first JR, against the Isle of Wight Council as Planning Authority, in May. It concerns a planning application by a separate property company, Bembridge Investments Ltd (BIL) . The proposal included environmentally damaging development and was claimed to benefit the harbour, but added to the SHA’s costs whilst losing it operational land and value.
The second JR is of the SHA itself. Jeremy Gully, chair of BHT, said: “BHT are advised of multiple abuses of powers and breaches of duties as a harbour authority. BHT has informed the relevant authorities accordingly. It is so disappointing that we have had to finally resort to legal action, having exhausted all other routes to achieve fairness for a harbour that is deteriorating so fast. Public concern can be measured by the incredible support we have had from the community, with people inside and outside the Trust donating the large amounts needed to progress these challenges in the courts. We are immensely grateful to them.”
The JR of SHA was lodged with the High Court on 28th June claiming:
- The lending of more than £600,000 to other companies owned by the directors/shareholders of the SHA (Bembridge Investments Ltd and Bembridge Boat Storage Ltd), meaning these funds were not available to maintain the harbour, in contravention of the ‘63 Harbour Act.
- A proposed disposal of the SHA’s land in contravention of the ’63 Harbour Act, and without compensation.
- A continued failure to monitor and maintain a marina after a High Court judgement in April found that the SHA had failed to take reasonable steps to do so.
- The loading of the SHA with the management responsibility and ongoing costs of the silt lagoon outside the harbour, in contravention of the ’63 Harbour Act
- Failure to meet its environmental responsibilities under the ’64 Harbours Act, including not carrying out an assessment of environmental issues in line with Habitats Regulations.
- All the above while failing in a duty to manage the harbour in the public interest
BHT say that in each of the JR cases the defendants can choose to remedy failings and thereby avoid the costs of proceedings. In the case of the SHA, simply recovering the £600,000 which accounts show has been lent to other companies would see it hugely better off and able to address obvious outstanding maintenance tasks.
BHT and other groups will continue to ask other questions of the SHA. For example, in early April 2021, Mr Thorpe of the SHA wrote to local parish councils and sailing clubs, advising that long overdue maintenance to Bembridge Groyne would be postponed “for months or possibly even years” if BHT was to make a legal challenge to BIL’s planning permission. The Groyne works are not referred to in BIL’s planning application and no funds are allocated or predicted for repairs to the Groyne in the planning agreement. However, the return of £600,000 the SHA lent to other companies clearly could fund the Groyne repairs that Mr Thorpe declared critical to the sustainability of the Harbour, and much else besides.
The next step in each JR is for the court to confirm that there is a case to answer and permission to proceed. This is expected within the next few weeks.
For further information including copy court submissions, contact Jeremy Gully on 01983 719254 or 07500 703113 (if land line not answered) or at email@example.com
(Note: Reference to the ’63 Harbour Act is to The Pier and Harbour Order( Bembridge Harbour) Confirmation Act 1963 and to the ’64 Harbours Act is to the The Harbours Act 1964).