Latest Bembridge Harbour Report

Posted on 01 Nov 2010

Since we last reported, Bembridge Harbour Trust (BHT) has been working hard to try and purchase Bembridge Harbour, unfortunately so far without success. BHT, a registered charity, of which SPS is a founder member, was set up to buy Bembridge Harbour should the opportunity arise and to hold it in perpetuity for the benefit of the local communities. It is supported strongly by the local community. The Harbour was placed on the market by its owner, the Bembridge Harbour Improvements Company, earlier in the year. Since then the Trustees of BHT have made three offers, all of which have been turned down because they were “too low”. This has been frustrating for the Trustees because, apart from the first bid, the subsequent offers, which have included not only the harbour itself but certain sites around the harbour, have been at the invitation of the selling agents. As reported at the AGM of the Trust held in August, the Chairman Donald Biddle said that the size of the bids had been supported by independent professional valuations, so are certainly realistic. However, he said that a major consideration, and one that was most difficult to put a figure on, is the significant extra cost of around £750,000 which is required for works to put right years of neglect. In particular, this refers to dredging, which had not taken place for very many years, and some pontoon repair work, both of which are now becoming seriously urgent. The Trust continues to seek ways to break the stale-mate with the vendor. If anybody would like a copy of the Trusts’ Annual Report or would like to know about individual membership opportunities, which are always welcome, or feel that they might be able to help the Trustees in any way, please contact Trustee, Michael MacInnes on michael.macinnes@btinternet.com Michael MacInnes For Bembridge Harbour Trust – October 2010

New Ferries Stakeholders Update – No. 10

Posted on 23 Feb 2010

Whilst the Harbour Commissioners have consistently supported the need for a proper evaluation and control of any potential environmental effects of the new ferries on the river and adjacent protected areas, we must take issue with the misinformation contained in the front page article of the Lymington Times on 20th February.

The article refers to “the rise in safety incidents since the ferries arrived”. This statement is incorrect. There has not been an increase in ferry related safety incidents. In fact the opposite is true.

All reported incidents are investigated by harbour staff which can be informed by statements taken from those involved, witnesses, and through viewing CCTV camera footage, including for ferry incidents, recordings from the ferry system. A record is kept of all findings and a summary report published on the LHC website and in our Annual Report (page 4).

The report classifies the findings under 17 categories. Those relevant to ferries are:
Collision with Ferry 2008           3 2009           0 Difference   -3

Impede Ferry/Other craft 2008           23 2009           19 Difference   -4

Near miss with Ferry 2008           8 2009           7 Difference   -1

Wash Ferry 2008           5 2009           9 Difference   +4
Total 1st Jan to 31 Dec 2008         39 2009         35 Difference  -4
This is clear evidence of a reduction in incidents. In addition, a more detailed report  has been presented to the annual meeting of the River Safety Group made up from representatives of the leisure users and Wightlink. This forum ensures that there can be a full debate of any issues arising and gives an opportunity for agreement on ways that safety may be further enhanced.

This process continues from year to year and is complimentary to the extensive risk assessment trials conducted by BMT Isis to ensure the safe introduction of the new ferries.

The above should make it clear to all concerned that the safety of all river users is a very high priority for the Commissioners and that we are working hard to maintain and increase the safety of navigation.

P.T. Griffiths

Chairman – LHC

Ferries- Judge rules that Wightlink acted unlawfully

Posted on 18 Feb 2010

On 16 February Mr Justice Owen gave his judgement in the case bought by the Lymington River Association against Wightlink and DEFRA
He ruled that the decision taken by Wightlink to introduce W class ferries in February 2009 was unlawful being in breach of its duties under the Habitats Directive and the Habitats Regulations. He further ruled that the Habitats Directive was not fully and properly transferred from European law to domestic law in its original form.
The SPS Council welcomes this step forward in the protection of the Lymington Marshes. It is aware of the discussions between Natural England and Wightlink concerning mitigation, and in particular the proposals for Pylewell Lake, and it awaits the ramifications of this judgement with interest.

 

A Copy of the judgement can be found at this link

New Ferries Stakeholders Update – No. 9

Posted on 17 Feb 2010

Having received a copy of the court’s judgement the Commissioners note that it has confirmed that LHC has no powers to consent to, or prohibit, the introduction of the new ferries. It also notes the position taken by LHC in February 2009 and publicised by Stakeholder Update no 4 as summarised here:

Wightlink have defied the will of all the regulators in deciding to introduce their new ferries before the environmental concerns have been resolved.

They have taken this action despite repeated requests from the LHC and their previous undertaking not to do so. They claim that they are justified because of the needs of the Isle of Wight, but the real problem that has lead to this situation is Wightlink’s determination to design and build ferries in advance of meaningful consultations with all the regulators.  As a result, all subsequent consultations have taken place against the commercial necessity on the part of Wightlink to introduce ferries that had already been paid for.

We have once again requested Wightlink to desist from this action, and are contacting all the relevant Government Departments for support in preventing it.

The ruling concludes that Wightlink’s decision to introduce the A Class ferries on 25 February 2009 was unlawful, thereby fully vindicating our persistent requests for them not to do so. It now remains to be seen what action government will take to resolve the present unlawful situation.

Peter Griffiths

Chairman – LHC

16th February 2010

Bembridge Harbour Important developments

Posted on 01 Feb 2010

Bembridge Harbour Important developments

The Department for Transport has confirmed that it will be conducting a public inquiry in January into the level of harbour dues being levied by the Bembridge Harbour Improvements Company Limited over the last four years, following appeals by harbour users. It is understood this will be the first such appeal to be carried out by the DfT and the users and managers of other harbours will be watching the conduct and result of the inquiry with great interest. The Environment Agency has now published its Eastern Yar draft coastal flood and erosion risk management strategy, in which it suggests that rising sea levels over the next 100 years will leave 730 homes and businesses at risk in the Bembridge and St Helens area alone.

The draft strategy recommends that the Bembridge Embankment Road, Brading Marshes and the majority of properties at risk should have improved protection from coastal flooding. The paper acknowledges that the St Helens Duver Wall (see photograph), which is in a very poor state and if breached would flood the St Helens Duver, is particularly vulnerable making vital the IOW Council’s proposal to maintain it for the next 50 years. However, EA’s recommendation to “do nothing but monitor” the groyne at Bembridge Point which they admit is also in a “very poor state of repair” and “is regularly submerged” is a mystery to Bembridge Harbour users. This negative policy will be seriously questioned during the consultation process as the groyne would appear to form an important protection to the entrance to Bembridge Harbour.

Exhibitions and consultations on the EA’s draft strategy will be taking place on this most important issue over the next few months. All these events are being closely monitored by the Bembridge Harbour Trust, a body that obtained charitable status in July 2007. The main objectives of this charity are to: • preserve and enhance Bembridge Harbour, it’s approaches and setting for the benefit of the public including the users of the harbour and the communities of Bembridge and St Helens on the Isle of Wight; and purchase the harbour from the current owner should the opportunity arise. BHT is a member of SPS.

Bembridge Harbour Important developments

Posted on 01 Feb 2010

Bembridge Harbour Important developments The Department for Transport has confirmed that it will be conducting a public inquiry in January into the level of harbour dues being levied by the Bembridge Harbour Improvements Company Limited over the last four years, following appeals by harbour users. It is understood this will be the first such appeal to be carried out by the DfT and the users and managers of other harbours will be watching the conduct and result of the inquiry with great interest. The Environment Agency has now published its Eastern Yar draft coastal flood and erosion risk management strategy, in which it suggests that rising sea levels over the next 100 years will leave 730 homes and businesses at risk in the Bembridge and St Helens area alone. The draft strategy recommends that the Bembridge Embankment Road, Brading Marshes and the majority of properties at risk should have improved protection from coastal flooding. The paper acknowledges that the St Helens Duver Wall (see photograph), which is in a very poor state and if breached would flood the St Helens Duver, is particularly vulnerable making vital the IOW Council’s proposal to maintain it for the next 50 years. However, EA’s recommendation to “do nothing but monitor” the groyne at Bembridge Point which they admit is also in a “very poor state of repair” and “is regularly submerged” is a mystery to Bembridge Harbour users. This negative policy will be seriously questioned during the consultation process as the groyne would appear to form an important protection to the entrance to Bembridge Harbour. Exhibitions and consultations on the EA’s draft strategy will be taking place on this most important issue over the next few months. All these events are being closely monitored by the Bembridge Harbour Trust, a body that obtained charitable status in July 2007. The main objectives of this charity are to: • preserve and enhance Bembridge Harbour, it’s approaches and setting for the benefit of the public including the users of the harbour and the communities of Bembridge and St Helens on the Isle of Wight; and • purchase the harbour from the current owner should the opportunity arise. BHT is a member of SPS. St

Press Release: SPS Fears For Yarmouth Harbour’s Unique Charm

Posted on 29 Jan 2010

The Solent Protection Society has responded to the Yarmouth Harbour Board’s request for feedback on their Inner Harbour Reconfiguration proposals.

The mission of the Solent Protection Society is to ensure the ecological and environmental well-being and wise management of the Solent area, its natural beauty and amenities, so that these may continue to be enjoyed by present and future generations.

The Society considers that the proposals for reconfiguration of the inner harbour at Yarmouth, as currently formulated, do not reflect the objectives of the mission statement in many respects.  The Society is concerned to ensure that all the proper procedures related to the environmental matters are being or will be carried out.  There is also concern that some of the operational aspects of the new proposal will lead to a significant loss of amenity, both with respect to the general appearance of the Harbour, and to its wide availability for enjoyment by present and future generations.

Solent Protection Society’s response to the Yarmouth Harbour Board gives the Society’s view on the impact of designations, including Habitats Regulations; flood defence; aesthetics; capacity for yacht moorings; safety and alternatives to the proposals.

SPS Response to Yarmouth Harbour Reconfiguration Proposals

 Solent Protection Society Mission statement

The mission of the Society is to ensure the ecological and environmental well-being and wise management of the Solent area, its natural beauty and amenities, so that these may continue to be enjoyed by present and future generations.

SPS  interest

The Society considers that the project as currently formulated does not reflect the objectives of the mission statement in many respects.  The Society is concerned to ensure that all the proper procedures related to the environmental matters are being or will be carried out.  There is also concern that some of the operational aspects of the new proposal will lead to a significant loss of amenity, both with respect to the general appearance of the Harbour, and to its wide availability for enjoyment by present and future generations.

The Society seeks to support local communities: The Yarmouth & Thorley Community Plan states “The emphasis within Conservation Areas is on ensuring local character is strengthened, not diminished, by change. The area was designated in 1969  in recognition of the special architectural and historic importance of the town.” While this constraint does not arise out of the Harbour Authority’s statutory powers and duties, it certainly gives a clear guide to the Authority.

Environment

Impact of designations

It is quite clear that the rearrangement of piling and pontoons within the Harbour constitutes  a ” plan or project” within the context of the Habitats Regulations.  In the Society’s view, an Appropriate Assessment under the terms of habitats regulations would be required.  To date we see no evidence that such an Assessment is planned.

A further requirement of the Habitats Regulations is that a plan or project is considered alone or in combination with other plans or projects.  Inevitably there will be projects in the very near future relating to flood defence that will closely relate to the rearrangement of the Harbour. These will arise from the publication of the second shoreline management plan which is imminent.  SPS believes that, as an absolute minimum, the Harbour rearrangement project should be considered in combination with these flood defence aspects. Indeed, redevelopment of the harbour may have considerable flood defence benefits to the local community if planned in an integrated way.

At a more general level, the harbour may be a separate legal entity but it is indivisible from the town on which any development in the harbour will necessarily impact directly . Therefore, the town and harbour should be seen as one unit. Unilateral activities in the harbour which could damage the overall atmosphere should be avoided.

It is clear from the description of the project that the commissioners envisage greater use of the upper Yar.  This modification to the operations and activities must be considered within the terms of the scheme of management of the Solent European Marine Site.  Evidence suggests that the upper Yar is one of the few places in the whole of the Solent where saltmarsh is accreting rather than retreating.  It therefore represents an important ecological asset, and one that should not be put at risk as a result of increased activity without proper precautionary measures, including monitoring, being put into place.

There may also be constraints and procedures to be applied arising out of the AONB status, and Heritage considerations including the impact of any proposals on the setting of Yarmouth Castle.

Flood defence

Revisions to the shoreline management plan are due to be published shortly, and it seems inappropriate to proceed with a major reorganisation of the Harbour without taking the requirements of the shoreline management plan and associated impact on flood defences into account.

Aesthetics

A significant part of the charm and character  of the Harbour is the wide mix of vessels that use it, particularly the more traditional types of vessel such as long keel gaff rigged boats with bowsprits. Such vessels find it much more difficult to operate within a marina environment, especially one where the tides can run strongly across the berths.  Thus quite apart from the manoeuvring and safety aspects, on which the RYA and the Cruising Association are better qualified to comment, the proposed new Harbour layout will undoubtedly change the mix of visiting vessels with consequent effect on the general ambience of the harbour.

While purely commercial considerations are beyond the scope of SPS interest, a significant change in the balance of the charging structure (such as would be implied by the switch to all walk-ashore facilities) would significantly reduce the accessibility and affordability of this harbour to a wide range of the public using the Solent, in particular local residents who have permanent harbour moorings.

Whilst there is clearly a balance to be achieved between the needs of the local economy and the protection of this unique area, any threat to damage it  by one organisation should be resisted unless it can be shown that the benefits  outweigh the detriment to all other interests. The perceived benefit to a few yachtsmen who would prefer to walk ashore  and the financial gain that this brings to the Harbour Commissioners clearly do not outweigh the loss of amenity to the greater number of residents and visitors.

The Society endorses the views expressed by Mr Ben Collins relating to the impact on Yarmouth’s heritage architecture.

Capacity

SPS is concerned about the general reduction of capacity for yacht moorings at destinations within the Solent area.  Threats to capacity exist at Keyhaven Lymington Bembridge and Chichester (East Head).  The Society therefore finds it disappointing that the proposed project contains no potential for capacity increase To achieve a capacity increase without harming the ambience of the town is difficult, but the possibility of developing an outer harbour would locate such a development as far as possible from the current harbour, and may even allow the character of the existing harbour to be substantially unchanged,

Safety

SPS supports the comments of Mr. Granger in relation to compliance with the latest codes of practice for the construction of yacht harbours.  With regards to other operational safety aspects, the Cruising Association, Royal Yachting Association, and local yacht clubs are better placed to comment

Alternatives

Consideration should be given to the no-action alternative.  It is probable that by one means or another revenue from the operation of the ferry could be returned to previous levels, and possibly increased.  It could well be that the fear of long-term loss of revenue from ferry operation is overstated.

We are aware that an outer harbour project that encompasses the area of water currently occupied by the moorings outside the Harbour to the west of the pier and main entrance has been considered.

In the light of the various concerns expressed above, it would seem that solutions such as the outer harbour should be investigated further.  Such a scheme could allow a significant increase in the capacity of the Harbour; address  the manoeuvring aspects of the present Harbour and the current Harbour redevelopment proposal; and may integrate more easily with other plans or projects such as the need to enhance flood defence. Significantly, such a scheme could substantially protect the character of the present inner harbour, and could incorporate necessary remedial works on the existing breakwater.

While it is recognized that the cost of construction of a new mole would be high, the regeneration potential of a new Harbour facility and its contribution to the general economy of the Isle of Wight represent such an important consideration that such a project should be examined closely before proceeding with the present proposal, including an assessment of public support for such a radical proposal.  It is, however, recognised that obtaining environmental consents for such a project would rest upon it being clearly demonstrated that such a project generated a net environmental gain.

Press Release: SPS Fears For Yarmouth Harbour’s Unique Charm

Posted on 29 Jan 2010

The Solent Protection Society has responded to the Yarmouth Harbour Board’s request for feedback on their Inner Harbour Reconfiguration proposals.

The mission of the Solent Protection Society is to ensure the ecological and environmental well-being and wise management of the Solent area, its natural beauty and amenities, so that these may continue to be enjoyed by present and future generations.

The Society considers that the proposals for reconfiguration of the inner harbour at Yarmouth, as currently formulated, do not reflect the objectives of the mission statement in many respects.  The Society is concerned to ensure that all the proper procedures related to the environmental matters are being or will be carried out.  There is also concern that some of the operational aspects of the new proposal will lead to a significant loss of amenity, both with respect to the general appearance of the Harbour, and to its wide availability for enjoyment by present and future generations.

Solent Protection Society’s response to the Yarmouth Harbour Board gives the Society’s view on the impact of designations, including Habitats Regulations; flood defence; aesthetics; capacity for yacht moorings; safety and alternatives to the proposals.