Agenda item

Harbour Revision Order Update

To receive a verbal update from the Chair.


The Chair advised that a report on understanding the legal obstacles to Port Marine Code Compliance would be presented to the meeting of the Council’s Executive on 1 November 2022 and then to the Council meeting in December for formal approval. A copy of the published report was sent to Harbour Board Members for information.


The Harbour Master provided some background to the report and the premise of pursuing a Harbour Revision Order (HRO) as part of the progress towards Port Marine Safety Code compliance.  He referred to the area of responsibility, which included the 5.5 miles of canal and 6 miles of river, both of which, were very important to the local economy and environment and took a considerable effort to manage. It was acknowledged that achieving a HRO could be an expensive and time consuming process and required some public consultation, but it would have a major and positive impact on the activities and future use of the waterways. It would also offer an oversight of control of the local waterways and help manage the level of liability. 

The Chair reported that a number of Board Members had made comments on the Executive report, via email. She invited those Members to present their comments at the meeting and a summary of the key points would be shared with the Executive.

Board Members made the following comments:-

·      Anthony Garratt referred to some frustration in the delay in this regard, given that the Harbour Board had been meeting for 18 months. He acknowledged the Council’s challenging financial situation and did not anticipate that achieving a HRO would result in a profit making entity any time soon.

·      Steve Sitch commented on the cost of the previous attempt to achieve a Harbour Revision Order and enquired if any of the work from the original application could be used. His approach was from a commercial perspective, and he could not see how an equal income or expenditure position could be achieved. He suggested an income and expenditure report should be presented to the Harbour Board. He also referred to the Council’s aspiration to achieve Net Zero and the opportunities to seek an income or revenue stream from that. The Harbour Master responded to the comment on the previous application which had involved a very different process as it related to an application to become a Trust Port. He added that income was derived from offering storage for vessels over the winter period, and that was used to support the 52 navigation aids in the river with a regular maintenance and replacement programme.

·      Councillor Pearce considered that great progress had been made since the Harbour Board met for the Visioning event and working collectively together to see a report on Port Compliance proceeding through the Council’s Executive with a view to seeking approval by the end of the year. A vision and framework had been established with a great deal of work taking place behind the scenes. He acknowledged the legitimate concern of the cost and differentials of the previous application, but that had included a public consultation, an extensive judicial review and public enquiry. It was not the intention to repeat that experience and the identified costs were potentially much lower than discussed. There was now the opportunity to move forward and regulate the waterways and ensure there were appropriate enforcement powers, as well as moving towards a financially sustainable port and the opportunity to collect harbour dues.

·      Owen Michaelson raised a number of points in relation to the report and was supportive of pursuing a HRO, but considered it should be done for the right reasons. There were many good reasons to pursue a HRO, apart from concern over the potential for litigation despite adhering to the Port Marine Safety Code.  There could be an increase in the Council’s liability and he would like to see a future report exploring the areas to achieve including maintaining a safe place.

He suggested the Board should consider the following, ahead of an application for a HRO being submitted:-

Øwhich parts of the Port Marine Safety Code should to be adopted, as there was recognition that all ports were different.

Øto test a number of aspects relating to a HRO, particularly through engagement with the public.

Øto consider the schedule of charges for adoption, acknowledging that it was a sensitive area.

Øto encourage healthy living and active sport and not create a cost mechanism  that discourages people from participating in active sport.

The Chair read out an email received from Board Member, Richard Eggleton, who also raised a number of points in relation to the current non-compliance of the Port Marine Safety Code and the inability to charge fees, harbour dues and licences as part of a user pays system. He also commented on the status of the Duty Holders.

Owen Michaelson referred to the Port Marine Safety Code in relation to the Duty Holders’ responsibility, which set out the accountability for the organisation’s compliance with the Code in ensuring safe marine operations. He sought some clarification of the position of Board Members. The Democratic Services Officer would revisit the terms of reference and seek advice as necessary to clarify the position.

The Chair welcomed the comments made which would be shared with the Executive.

Members noted the report.