BHT’s Trustees are disappointed by this decision, not only by the Judge’s findings on the limited questions in front of her (this case was solely about loans made by the harbour authority, the provision of security by the harbour authority to cover other companies’ borrowings and the use of revenues including profits to fund loans in the year to March 2020) but also for its implications on the ability for the community to hold the harbour authority to account on use of its funds.
We are advised that there are fundamental errors in the decision and are considering an appeal, not only because of the specific findings, but also its broader ramifications.
The decision has had at least one positive outcome: it affirms that the Local Harbour Act in general, and section 31 in particular, applies with full force. (This puts an end to argument by some members of the community that the harbour legislation does not apply to Bembridge because it is privately owned).
BHT note: Section 31 sets out how all profits must be applied to the harbour, with a exception of a reasonable return on the share capital which currently stands at £4,000.
The court’s confirmation of the status of the Act underlines the position that artificial reduction of the Harbour’s profits, such as by sales at undervalue (eg the sale of a houseboat plot for £1) must be questionable.
Though this setback is disappointing, rest assured BHT will continue to seek to protect the communities’ interests, in line with its charitable objectives and with vigour.
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