The local harbour authority denies 'competing unfairly'

South

Dorset marine stakeholders have set up an action group in opposition to the

local harbour authority which they say is muscling in on their business.

The

new Poole Harbour Users Association is a backlash to Poole Harbour

Commissioners (PHC) being granted permission by the town’s borough council to have permanent berths at Poole Quay Boat

Haven visitors’ marina.

The association is also worried about the PHC’s future expansion

plans.

In PBO’s July issue we reported that Salterns Marina Ltd, supported by Marina

Developments Ltd, Davis’s Boatyard in Hamworthy and Dorset Lake Shipyard Ltd, was pursuing court action

against the council for allowing the ‘visitors only’ marina to offer

three-month rolling contracts.

A judicial review was rejected by the High

Court in London, but it did establish that the legal definition of a visiting vessel was

not a yacht, which is moored or based in one place for a long period – such as provided by the three-month

rolling contracts.

Salterns Marina managing director John Smith said this has

now been accepted and agreed by Poole Borough Council and the PHC however,

during the judicial review process the council altered the Section 106

agreement and have allowed PHC to turn 25 of its original 105 visitors’ berths into

permanent ones.

Unfair competition?

Mr

Smith said the agreement was put in place to protect Poole Quay Boat Haven as a

visitors’ marina and the alteration, while legal, represents a ‘shabby deal

behind closed doors’ between the council and PHC, which will impact everybody

in Poole by losing thousands of visitors each year.

The

action group also fear that plans to triple the size of the visitor marina to

create Poole Harbour Marine Centre (as reported in June’s PBO) will result in

unfair competition for Cobb’s Quay Marina and Davis’s Boatyard by the area’s

Harbour Authority.

Lance Murdoch, of Davis’s Boatyard, said: ‘Basically the general

feeling is that PHC aren’t really working for the benefit of the stakeholders

anymore, they’re starting to unfairly compete with us.’

Expansion berths ‘not covered’ by agreement

Poole Quay

Boat Haven says it actually offers 45 permanant berths out of 125

visitors’ berths but a borough council spokesman said the new agreement

related to a specific area defined in the original Section 106

agreement.

The council spokesman added: ‘Since then the marina has expanded with additional berths not covered by this agreement.’

PHC response

Jim

Stewart, chief executive officer for PHC, said: ‘A judicial review was launched against the Borough

of Poole by some marinas in Poole Harbour. This was rejected by the

courts.

‘The relevant process is 100 per cent driven by the

Borough of Poole’s planning department. We understand that modifications

through this process do not require a public consultation, however this was a

decision made entirely by the Local Authority.

‘PHC believe that Poole Quay Boat Haven is one of

the UK’s busiest visitor yacht havens and we are certain that this will not

change under the new ‘106 agreement’.

‘So many efforts are being made by PHC to

attract new visitors to Poole Harbour, including halving the price for short

term harbour dues.’

Mr Stewart

urged other marinas to allocate a percentage of their berths purely for

visitors to attract more visiting yachts. He said the marine centre plans

followed an 18-month consultation and would ‘include a major visitor attraction

centre that will greatly benefit the town and local businesses’ 

He added: ‘PHC has consulted for more than 18 months on our

exciting plans for a marine centre in Poole Harbour, which will include a major

visitor attraction centre that will greatly benefit the town and local

businesses.

‘Additionally, we are allocating space for major marine events in

Poole, which we believe will be a real benefit for tourism and the local

economy. A number of organisations are solidly behind our proposals including

Poole Tourism including a significant number of Quay traders.

‘A new bridge was completed by the Borough of Poole

in Poole Harbour last year, which has resulted in an exodus of boats from Holes

Bay.

‘PHC firmly believe that there is and will be strong demand for permanent

berths in the main harbour and the new marina centre addresses this problem.

‘It

will provide many boat owners with greater choice. While we recognise that some

marina operators might not welcome competition, PHC feel that the new facility

will provide major benefits for harbour users and the local economy

overall.’

Council response

A Poole Borough Council said after the marine businesses appeal was abondoned, the council was awarded costs of

the last hearing.

Stephen Thorne, head of planning and regeneration for Poole Borough council, said: ‘Following a detailed investigation and consultation with all interested parties, including Poole marine businesses, a new legal agreement was signed with Poole Harbour Commissioners to address a long standing issue about there being no definition of a visiting vessel.

‘The council carefully considered the impact of reducing visitor berths from 105 to 80 and is satisfied there will be no significant impact on the harbour amenity or high street visitors.

‘The amended agreement and new definition provides security and certainty for boating visitors to Poole and we are regularly monitoring the haven to ensure full compliance with the agreement.’

To find out more about the PHC expansion plans visit: http://www.phc.co.uk/masterplan/

Pictures: 

An aerial view of Poole Harbour. Credit: Sue Sieger

Members of the Poole Harbour Users Association

Managing director John Smith and boatyard general manager James Sydenham at Salterns Marina