Court date fixed
Finally, we have a court date for the Judicial Review of the Statutory Harbour Authority. The final hearing will be on 23rd March 2023, in the High Court in London.
It will be an in-person hearing. At present, it cannot also be viewed online by the public, but we will keep you advised if there is any change.
Sale of the Aggregates Yard
We last wrote to members on 8th December, advising that the harbour authority, BHIC, has been deprived of at least between £650,000 and £800,000 in payment for the right to extract aggregates, the sums having passed instead to private development company, BIL. Mr. Thorpe has now replied to our most recent letter seeking an explanation and /or restitution to BHIC. The response gives no explanation or assurance, save to refer to the legal document – the Transfer – already in our possession. It is clear on the face of this document that BHIC receives no payment for the acquisition of its rights, and that the entire sum goes to BIL. Mr. Thorpe’s response therefore tends to confirm the position that the SHA (BHIC) is not receiving the £650,000 – £800,000 or more that BHT asserts, on professional advice, it should be receiving for the aggregate extraction rights. We will accordingly be bringing this matter to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
For completeness, Mr Thorpe’s response does refer to “several long term financial benefits” to the SHA. These are not cited in any legal documents in our possession. However, claims of benefits to BHIC were outlined by Mr Thorpe at a recent meeting of the Bembridge Harbour Advisory Group (BHAG) and are summarised in the minutes of the meeting of 8th September. In short these are simply that dredging of the harbour approaches will happen, and that the aggregates site cannot be used for any other purpose. This in no way addresses BHT’s concerns. Neither is the effective dredging of the harbour approaches demonstrated at all or against any standard. Mr Thorpe’s comment in the IWCP that “Entrance Channel dredging has been improved beyond recognition” may leave many scratching their heads!
Disinformation about the SHA as a public body
To our surprise, some still express the view that BHIC is not a statutory harbour authority, ie a public body, and is not therefore bound by the terms of the Harbour Acts, including on financial matters.
We do not know the source or basis for this view. Such a view is contrary to the very clear position of the Thorpes in every public statement on the matter, including formal statements to the Isle of Wight Council.
If any BHT members should have the opportunity to discuss this with their clubs, this may help in serving to correct this important misunderstanding. Left unaddressed, this misunderstanding undermines anyone’s efforts to get the harbour the public are entitled to expect and enjoy.
In order to perform its environmental and maintenance duties, the SHA has to have funds – in particular it must have the use of its own incomes and assets.
The focus of BHT’s concern is that under the current ownership the SHA has been deprived of a total of around £3,000,000 (in cash and/or asset value) on a questionable basis, including the sale of the aggregates yard, and the loans which are the subject of the current Judicial Review of the SHA.
The directors of any company have a duty to act in its best interests. It is hard to see how the SHA’s (and therefore our harbour’s) interest is served by having its directors give away £s that should be funding important works and business growth.
BHT held our AGM on 16th December, and after the formal business an open discussion demonstrated vigorous and unanimous support for the Trust’s actions. We can hope for a productive 2023 for the benefit of the harbour and all our members.
Chris Attrill, Jonathan Bacon, William Bland , Jeremy Gully (chair), Phil Jordan, Norman Marshall, Sara Smith, as Trustees