When a letter from a Mr Knocker critical of BHT was published on the Isle of Wight County Press website it attracted this public comment from a non BHT member:
“You probably have worked out by now that Knocker has written a fraction of the total overall shocking ownership of this harbour.
Most locals know exactly what’s going on here, with multiple companies owned by the two same people, things moved around to suit prevailing winds, so to speak, ………. It’s not about the JR, never was. It’s about the ………….going on at this harbour (It’s a Statutory Harbour btw – it’s privately owned but that ownership has duties to maintain the harbour), the build up of sand, lack of dredging, no groyne replacement and more, much more.“
Mr Knocker’s letter was also published in the printed edition and , BHT trustees responded , as did others. We may not use the same language but share the similar fundamental concerns that the harbour is not getting the maintenance it needs and that we are advised, it is entitled to.
The £30,000 Mr Knocker refers to pales into insignificance when compared with the public cost saved by BHT’s efforts. One intervention alone prevented the Statutory Harbour Authority (SHA) from potentially losing £1,000,000.
BHT alerted the IWC to multiple mistakes over the years, and the IWC did indeed take legal and valuation advice. This resulted in a long list of corrections favouring the SHA and the environment. Our interventions did meet resistance from the directors of SHA – who also represented the competing priorities of the developer applicant (Bembridge Investments Ltd). Things put right include:
1. A secure lease of shoreside facilities, rather than no security.
2. An overage clause capturing profits over the predicted 20% ( if made) for the SHA, rather than no capture of any profits for the SHA.
3. Ensuring the developer got the 20% profit (approx. £1.2m) that planners recommended, rather than £2.2m before the SHA saw any benefit.
4. Preventing money for the SHA (if made) being wrongly discounted, by a non-existent Corporation Tax liability.
5. Dismissing a proposal to compel the SHA to buy facilities on artificially high terms. (The SHA which said it could not afford a purchase!)
6. An appropriate assessment on ecological impacts. (The IWC failed to carry this out until pressed by BHT).
7. Correction by BHT of misinformation on sewage discharges, without which additional nitrate pollution would have been discharged into the Harbour without any mitigation.
Looking at cost to the public, we also highlight £560,000 of the public’s money entrusted to the SHA to maintain the harbour. The 2020 accounts show this had instead been lent to other Thorpe family owned companies. This is the subject of separate legal action as BHT try to ensure the SHA has the funds it needs for harbour maintenance. Our efforts contrast with a development proposal that predicts profits for a property company, but no money for the SHA.
Whilst Mr Knocker (or Mr Thorpe) might seek to paint a different picture, the facts are on the public planning file and Companies House website for all to see.
Chris Attrill, Jonathan Bacon, William Bland, Jeremy Gully, Phil Jordan, Norman Marshall, Sara Smith, as Trustees Bembridge Harbour Trust“
Without action the harbour looks doomed to become little more than a tidal river connecting marinas ( if with new loos) loosing much of its bussiness, recreational, social and educational function. BHT will continue to do its best , but other organisations must surely open their eyes to the facts and act if the harbour as we know it is to have a future.