Newtown is a natural creek penetrating the Isle of Wight between Cowes and Yarmouth. It is one of the few places in the Solent where anchoring is easy and sheltered in all wind directions. The National Trust own the whole area, and it has never been designated as a statutory harbour.
Some years ago, a boatowner challenged the right of National Trust to levy charges on boats anchoring in Newtown. The matter never reached the courts as National Trust chose not to fight the case.The rather strange result is that visiting yachts at anchor are invited to ‘make a donation’ Yachts using the mooring buoys still pay a set fee because National Trust are providing a service.
We talked to the Harbourmaster, Davie Flannagan, about this strange situation and asked how it affects the harbour.
Let’s keep the relaxed atmosphere
Even when pressed on the point, Davie does not want anything to change. At first visitors were generous, but donations have tailed off in recent years. So the system is working only to a degree. Of course, the revenue could be increased by filling the harbour with moorings. But Davie supported by the National Trust, is committed to maintaining the character of the harbour by keeping a large proportion of the harbour area available for anchoring, So there are no current plans to make any change.
There have also been pressures to declare large parts of the harbour a Marine Conservation Zone. As there has been no consultation on the management measures that might be introduced, the impact cannot be assessed. Despite this, Davie, supported again by National Trust has negotiated an MCZ proposal that will provide an adequate protected area without interfering with the ability of existing users to enjoy this beautiful natural harbour. At present Government are rechecking the science underlying the propose designation.
So National Trust are committed to preserving Newtown as a peaceful place to chill out.
Why not formalise the harbour status?
Looking across the Solent, we could almost see the entrance to the Beaulieu River, part of the ancient Montagu estate. Because they own the riverbed, they can charge anchoring fees. Would Davie like Newtown to be like Beaulieu? Or perhaps become a statutory port like Chichester? Davie rejected both options preferring the relatively free and easy, bureaucracy free environment that he currently enjoys.
The biggest problem?
On a personal level, Davie regrets the lack of a sense of history, traditional marine etiquette among some users, and a lack of training in seamanship basics. Probably this arises from the many people new to boating.
Davie is also mildly concerned that the West Solent outside Newtown, is frequently used by small tankers and gas carriers, and is legally open sea. There is no harbour authority, and little chance of enforcement. Ships anchored at Saltmead Ledge, just outside Newtown, could be transferring cargo or wastes in an unregulated manner. There are no speed limits or traffic control in the western Solent. The risk of accident and pollution clearly exists. It is a problem that has exercised SPS too.
User goodwill is the key
The relaxed atmosphere of Newtown will continue to depend on the goodwill of the users. In the near future some mooring chains and some of the navigation marks will need replacing. A little courtesy and a voluntary contribution will go a long way toward protecting the future of this magical place.