The hearing of the Judicial Review against the SHA is not now expected until late Spring. But people need to know that whatever the eventual outcome of the JR, the harbour remains under existential threat as long as any owner is able to extract all the money they choose, at the direct expense of the harbour’s essential function, and BHT alone cannot alter that.
Meanwhile BHT does what we can, but other organisations and authorities need to grasp the nettle and take an active part in saving our harbour. If they don’t, then there is little future for it beyond a tidal river connecting two marinas.
Bembridge Harbour Advisory Group meets for the first time since Covid
Mr and Mrs Thorpe recently held their first BHAG meeting for 2 years, at which they gave updates on various critical issues, backtracking on at least two promises made last year.
- The Groyne (a): Regardless of need, and counter to clear minuted advice from the harbour’s own experts that the groyne would work, AND despite a pledge that the groyne’s reinstatement would be progressed in Autumn 2021, Mr Thorpe advised at the meeting that it will be not be happening any time soon – if at all – without third party (ie community) funding. This announcement will be a surprise to those who were led to believe that if the planning consent was granted the priority harbour needs, including the groyne, would be addressed.
- The Groyne (b): Re the need for the groyne, Mr Thorpe says the sand and gravel extraction at the harbour entrance has some positive effect on siltation, so for the time being the SHA will simply continue to monitor the situation (rather than take action on the groyne). This ignores the facts that a) extraction has been going on for decades and regardless of any positive effect, the problem of siltation has been worsening as the groyne has been allowed to deteriorate since it last repaired in 2006, and b) it does not obviate the need for the groyne which would address the key issue of longshore drift, by stopping material from entering the harbour, as opposed to merely removing a portion of it.
- Attrill’s Point: Again, regardless of a previous pledge that the SHA would dredge the rapidly growing Attrill’s Point beginning Autumn 2021, Mr Thorpe advised that it was not likely to be happening any time soon.
- Dredging intra-Harbour Channels: Mr Thorpe remained silent on any SHA programme or commitment to dredge the connecting channels between marinas, or at Fisherman’s (last dredged in 2004).
What all of the above tells us
Some readers may have understood that once the developer (BIL) got its planning permission, we could expect some improvements to maintenance of the harbour itself. No doubt they will be surprised and disappointed by Mr Thorpe’s newly revised position illustrated above.
Judicial Review of the IWC – new evidence too late
While its no good crying over spilt milk, new information has come to light in the form of corrected SHA accounts. These confirm £560,000 loans by the SHA to other Thorpe-owned companies during the time before the decision was issued. Had this information been available when it should, this may well have led to a different planning decision.
This new information impacts on JR No2 (against the SHA) the aim of which is to see the harbour gets the money due to it. Having now shown in the corrected accounts that the SHA did indeed lend money to other companies, Mr Thorpe could save everyone (but especially the harbour) a lot of unnecessary time and expense by simply repaying that money to the SHA, thus obviating the need for JR2 and providing the SHA with the funds it needs for the groyne as well as proper dredging and maintenance.
Furthermore, evidence concerning land ownership, not available to the High Court in the JR1 ( against the IWC), continues to come to light. Mr Thorpe, acting on behalf of his developer company, BIL, wrongly claimed a boundary line was in a different location to the one shown in Land Registry. It is now clear that the correct boundary line is one the SHA itself helped to fix. And further, Mr Thorpe had correctly referenced that boundary in no less than 5 planning applications in 2012/13. In the current circumstances the Thorpes’ developer company, BIL , could be correctly compensate the SHA by reduction in rent to be charged for the new facilities.
BHT continue to press these points which are so clearly in the interest of the SHA.
Judicial Review of the SHA
The SHA’s March 2020 accounts were posted months late, and so not available at a crucial time in the planning process, when they may have made a difference to the outcome. When they finally did appear they contained errors. Those accounts have now been altered and resubmitted to Companies House.
Crucially they now show the loans of £560,000 made by the SHA to other Thorpe-owned companies. We are advised this money should have been available for harbour improvements and this is the subject of the JR.
The SHA have advised that they will respond with further information within around a month. Until the information is received, we do not know what response will be required from us.
It is now unlikely that the case will be heard before late spring/early summer 2022.
CALL TO ACTION
We can only hope that reading the above will spur all harbour groups and organisations to unified action before it is too late.
BSC say within as little as 10 years they will be unable to use the harbour as they currently do, while its mooring pool is filling at two and a half times its historic rate according to their own survey data. In the above mentioned BHAG meeting Bembridge Angling Club expressed concern about upper harbour siltation. Commercial fishermen have long been battling a shrinking tidal window. The in harbour sailing area is shrinking in size and tidal window. The backlog of maintenance is piling up. Everyone, with the possible exception of high tide visitors, is feeling the effects.
We urge members of all clubs, organisations and societies to speak to their management. Members of BSC and BHYC in particular, please take note: for how much longer is its prudent for your club to maintain its strict stance of neutrality as its activities are progressively restrained? The public in general might ask councillors how it is that Bembridge Parish Council can absolve itself of all responsibility for this key part of the parish (again claiming ‘neutrality’) when it should surely be representing parishioners’ interests?
BHT will continue to do what we can, but other organisations and authorities need to grasp the nettle and play their part to save our harbour. If they don’t, then there is little future for their activities, and they will have to bear some responsibility.
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