Newtown, a magical harbour

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.

Legal Challenge

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.

Environmental Designation

Enter a caption

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.

Medina Yard update

We have received the following invitation from the developers:

Medina Yard Exhibition and Community Forum,

Tuesday 5 March 2013 Cowes Methodist Church, Birmingham Road, Cowes PO31 7BH

4.30-6.30pm – Public Exhibition of the Vision for Medina Yard

7.00-9.00pm – Medina Yard Community Forum

I am writing to invite you to the Exhibition of the Vision for Medina Yard and the first Medina Yard Community Forum on Tuesday 5 March. This is a change from the date of 7 March which we mentioned at the Community Planning Weekend Report Back presentation and I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. We have changed the date to avoid a clash with a Cowes Town Council meeting.

At the Medina Yard Community Planning Weekend from 1-5 February participants expressed the desire to continue to be involved in the development of the proposals for the future of the site. In response to this, we are holding an exhibition of the emerging proposals from 4.30-6.30pm at Cowes Methodist Church. This will be followed by the Community Forum from 7-9pm. The Forum will be an opportunity for people to see a reduced version of the Vision for Medina Yard PowerPoint show presented on the Tuesday evening of the Community Planning Weekend, hear a project update and then take part in round table groups to discuss the emerging proposals for the site.

Forum Agenda

6.45pm Arrival and sign in 7.00pm Project recap and update

7.30pm Refreshment break 7.45pm Round table discussion groups

8.30pm Reports back 8.50pm Next steps

9.00pm Close

You can view the Broadsheet of the outcomes from the Community Planning Weekend including the illustrative Masterplan of Medina Yard on our website at:

(Signed by the Community Planner of John Thompson and Partners)

Bembridge Harbour Trust to renew bid

Posted on 07 May 2011

Bembridge Harbour Trust                            News Release 26 April, 2011
Bembridge Harbour Trust to renew bid for Bembridge Harbour.
Following the collapse of the two companies that operate Bembridge harbour into administration, Bembridge Harbour Trust will renew its attempts to buy the harbour and associated properties.
This was announced by the chairman of the Trustees, Michael MacInnes, following funding meetings in Bembridge over the Easter weekend.
Meanwhile the harbour is continuing to be operated as a going concern by the administrators who are expected to package the two companies into one for sale shortly.
The Trust, a charity, was formed nearly four years ago by concerned local residents who feared that the future of the harbour was threatened by years of neglect and poor maintenance.
The Trust’s principal aim is to buy the harbour, restore it and to ensure its ownership in perpetuity for the benefit of the local communities and users of the harbour.
Last year, the Trust made three bids for the harbour, having taken professional advice on the valuation of the harbour and its properties, but these were rejected as too low by the then owner.
“We now have a marvellous opportunity finally to buy the harbour and, if we are successful, put right years of neglect that threaten the future of the harbour as a ‘working’ harbour for sailors, fishermen and marine businesses alike”, said Mr. MacInnes. “We are ready to take on this responsibility for the benefit of everybody who enjoys the harbour for its sailing, wild life, angling, walking or as one of the Isle of Wight’s major tourist and recreational amenities”.
Mr MacInnes said that the new owner of the harbour would have to spend immediately in the region of £1/2m dredging the harbour as this had not been done for eight years and water levels were very low in places. Other urgent remedial work would have to be carried out on the pontoons, the quay walls and visiting sailors’ amenities; all at considerable cost.
Mr MacInnes and Mr Chris Attrill have already had a preliminary meeting with the administrators and advised them of the Trust wish to bid.
The Trust has over 170 founder members drawn mainly from residents in Bembridge, St. Helens, Brading and Seaview and has four distinguished patrons, Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, Lord Brabazon of Tara, Peter Nicholson CBE and Maldwin Drummonds OBE as well as an advisory board representing many local business and social interests.

“With our members and advisers, we also have wide commercial support through the local communities who have the skills and expertise so we can get the harbour up and running properly again – if we get the chance to buy it,” said Mr. MacInnes.<br> Further information:<br> Michael MacInnes, chairman Bembridge Harbour Trust: tel.: 018983 872108 or email: <a href=”” data-mce-href=””></a><br> Donald Biddle, trustee, Bembridge Harbour Trust: Tel.: 01983 875561 or email: <a href=”” data-mce-href=””></a><br> Note. Bembridge Harbour Improvements Company and Maritime and Leisure Investments Limited were placed in administration on 13 April following a winding up petition by HM Customs and Revenue.<br> Bembridge Harbour Trust is a registered charity, number 1120225 and is also a company limited by guarantee under company number 05671595.

Bembridge Harbour Trust T: 01983 872319 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 01983 872319 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting E:

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.

Planning in the Solent

Planning in the Solent

Posted on 08 Nov 2008

Policy Developments

1. The Society considers that with the development of the EU Marine Strategy, integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and the Marine Bill there is a clear trend, both nationally and internationally towards coordinated policy-making for marine areas. If the Marine Bill is enacted in the next Parliamentary session it is probable that some form of statutory integrated marine planning will soon be introduced.  How such a requirement is implemented in busy areas with internationally important recreational and environmental resources, such as the Solent, will be critical to its acceptance and operation to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

2. As a conservation group with long experience of and interest in the Solent as a whole, we have tried to look constructively at this issue.  We previously proposed that the Western Solent should form a marine national park and we further considered the issue in the light of the responses to our earlier consultation document and research work commissioned by the Society.

3. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) will almost certainly be required in the Solent as a whole. As we understand it, MSP, working within national strategic guidelines, would set objectives and policies for the whole and specific parts of the area, covering activities above and below the surface up to Mean High Water Springs, and is likely to be followed where necessary by management schemes.  All public bodies involved in the marine area and the immediate shoreline would need to contribute to the process, for which the leadership of a national Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is proposed in the Bill. We think that the Solent, being a busy stretch of water with environmental, economic and recreational resources of national and international value and a great variety of pressures, may well be selected by Government for a pilot study.

  How might MSP be arranged in the Solent?

4. The Society considers that it would require a strategic and proactive approach, for which the necessary wide range of expertise and data would not be fully available in any single organisation in the area. The process must be inclusive and transparent, giving opportunity for stakeholder views to be involved at all the main stages. One option would be for the proposed MMO to have the role alone, subject to local consultation, but being concerned primarily with national and international perspectives and not having a strong local connection, this “top down” approach would not work well in an area with the detailed local problems of the Solent. Furthermore it is clear from the Policy Paper to the Marine Bill that setting up the MMO might take a considerable time. Another option might be for the Solent Forum to do the job, but the Forum’s size and essentially advisory (rather than executive) role may render it unsuited for the difficult policy decisions that will almost certainly be required for individual parts of the area. These might include, for example, the relative priority to be given to conservation, recreational uses, shipping routes, economic development and the relation with hinterland planning, fisheries,, minerals, and administrative matters such as the  future extent of harbour authority areas.

5. A third option might be for the process to be administered by a specific partnership of Local Authorities and Harbour Authorities, in association with the MMO, other official agencies and major private and voluntary groups. Local and Harbour Authorities have the advantage of being statutory bodies with detailed knowledge of the area, strong local connections, and a role that is well understood.

6. One particular problem affecting how MSP is administered in the area is that the East Solent, with Southampton Water, differs considerably from the West Solent. It is relatively urbanised, has very intense recreational pressures, and is the principal approach for large container ships, tankers and cruise liners and, for Portsmouth Harbour, large naval vessels. Furthermore its open waters are largely within the areas of two major Harbour Authorities (ABP and QHM).

7. By comparison, the West Solent, while sharing with the East Solent a range of wildlife sites of international value, has a more continuous assembly of them. It has a more relaxed atmosphere for recreational sailing and coastal enjoyment, being within a nationally recognised landscape and seascape setting: the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, on the mainland, the New Forest National Park. It also contains sensitive shellfish resources.

8. In administrative terms, however, it does not have the East Solent’s comprehensive harbour authority coverage, despite having as wide a range of problems which are intensified by the fragile nature of its setting and ecological value. Because its Harbour Authorities and other management bodies are very separate and most do not cover the open sea, management of the West Solent is fragmented and uncoordinated. Furthermore, as with the East Solent, numerous public authorities and agencies have responsibilities in the area (some fifteen in the West Solent itself).   These complications would make it difficult to coordinate planning and management there and to give the West Solent a “voice” in ensuring that MSP is finely balanced over the Solent area as a whole.

Is there a need for coordination in the use of the West Solent?

9. We believe that there is a strong case for this, arising primarily from the Marine Bill.  There are various ways in which co-ordination in the West Solent might be achieved, and we have given much thought to possible forms of organisation. After considering the advantages and disadvantages of designation as a marine national park or marine conservation area, and having taken soundings on these and other possibilities, our preference would be for a non-statutory body to be set up in the form of a partnership of public and other interests, i.e. a joint committee. We reckon that this could consist of about twenty organisations including Local Authorities, the New Forest National Park Authority, Harbour Authorities, Statutory Agencies, RYA and major voluntary sector organisations, truly representative of the local, regional and national context of the area, including its economic importance. The additional cost of what would be a minor commitment (perhaps one designated staff member, whole or part time, with inputs from key staff in some of these organisations) would thus be shared amongst several public bodies that could probably provide much of the necessary expertise collectively.


10. Prime amongst the terms of reference of this body would be a mandate to oversee, in consultation with those responsible for the East Solent, the development of marine spatial planning aims, policies and zoning for the area, and to formulate, within this, a programme. Research, eg into the impacts of pressures of all kinds, would also be an important role. It would be a consensus-building organisation, and would have informal advice as necessary from consultation with stakeholders who are not directly represented on the joint committee.  A possible scheme is set out in the Annex to this paper.

11. Cost and staff-sharing partnerships of this kind have worked well in the management of the 41 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England and Wales, and a few of these have now become statutory Conservation Boards. Indeed, we can foresee the possibility that a statutory body like the Chichester Harbour Conservancy might ultimately be developed by the partnership, having planning, harbour management and conservation roles and based, essentially, in local democracy. The need for this might become particularly important if the West Solent were ultimately to be designated as a Marine Conservation Area in accordance with powers in the Marine Bill, as its implementation may involve specific statutory processes.

12. We imagine that the implications of MSP for the Solent are already being studied by Local Authorities, Harbour Authorities and Government Departments and Agencies, possibly also by recreational, wildlife, shipping and business interests, individually and through the Solent Forum. So we commend this approach to them for further consideration

13. In doing so, we emphasise that we do not see any need for additional legal constraints or regulation, nor extensive monitoring. Apart from the possibility of a significant oil spill, there is no serious conflict between recreation and shipping in the West Solent. So far as wildlife conservation is concerned, the Solent European Marine Sites Management Scheme (SEMS, published in 2004) has identified areas of risk and has set guidelines for specific areas that do not cover the West Solent as a whole. Voluntary codes of practice, of which there is much successful experience in the Solent generally, could be developed further as the need arises. Furthermore we do not see a risk of undue financial burden on individual local organisations if the partnership approach that we advocate is adopted.

Possible composition of and terms of reference for a West Solent Joint Committee

1. Membership

1.1 Local Authorities:  HCC, IOWC, NFDC, NFNPA 1.2 Harbour Authorities and estate harbour managers: Lymington HC, Yarmouth HC,       Cowes HC, National Trust, Beaulieu Estate, and ABP (as a corresponding       member) 1.3 Quangos: EA, NE, Crown Estate, MCA, S Sea Fisheries (or successor), MMO 1.4 Voluntary sector: RYA, SCRA, SPS, Solent Forum, Marine Archaeology Association, Wildlife Trust

2. Terms of reference

2.1 To ensure that the interests of the West Solent, its coast and waters, are adequately        represented in strategic marine planning for the Solent as a whole 2.2 To assemble information for such strategic planning 2.3 To advise its members on policies for the West Solent’s waters and shorelines in fulfilment of the strategic plan 2.4 To raise and discuss cross-sectional planning issues affecting the West Solent’s shoreline and waters 2.5 To advise its members on necessary research programmes 2.6  To consult regularly with organisations directly interested in the West Solent

Submitted by Professor Gerald Smart