BHA Press Release - 13.9.16 - Houseboat proposal
Bembridge Harbour Authority has announced their own initiative with regards to one of the longest running problems within the Harbour - the issue of a number of houseboats having no proper sewage/waste water facilities and therefore pumping out straight onto the seabed.
The Harbour has been home to many houseboats for nearly a century now - most of them being moored within an area of the Harbour before any planning laws came into effect (in 1948). These houseboats come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from old motor torpedo boats, ex-fishing boats, converted trawlers to custom designed and built versions with all modern facilities.
Following the Thorpe’s purchase of the Harbour in December 2011, all new houseboat arrivals have been required to fit either a waste holding tank or eco-system equipment to cope with their waste. This has proved a positive way forwards.
Existing houseboats moored in the Harbour and without such provision have been encouraged to consider installing facilities, with some limited success; Fiona and Malcolm Thorpe want to be more pro-active in improving the water quality for all Harbour users as well as working in conjunction with the houseboat owners.
The first step was to apply in March 2016 for a Lawful Development Certificate to the local planning authority (currently under consideration) in order to regularise the historical planning position of all the houseboats within the Harbour. Some houseboats have done this on an individual basis in the past, but the majority do not have the benefit of any local authority approval. A Lawful Development Certificate seeks to ratify the existing planning position and does not give any consent or approval for works in the future.
The second stage has been to submit an outline Planning Application to establish that the area of the Harbour between the gangway leading down to Selwyn Pontoon and the slipway adjacent to the houseboat Sirius does have planning approval for houseboats.
The purpose of this application, if approved, is that not only will it allow infilling of those plots currently unused, but as a result, it will give the Harbour the financial ability to supply and fit individual waste sewerage tanks and/or treatment plants to those houseboats that currently deposit their raw sewerage and waste onto the Harbour seabed. All this work will be carried out at the Harbour’s cost and will be regulated within a S106 Planning Agreement to ensure such work is completed.
These works will be a further substantial investment into the Harbour and could take 3 to 4 years to complete. Along with other Harbour improvements, they will be financed from the sale of houseboat plots.
A scheme was promoted by the Harbour Authority some 8 years ago, but failed to gain planning approval due to its complexity and being financially non-viable. This current proposal is straight forward and makes practical and positive sense.
Malcolm states that “In this day and age, I fail to grasp why these present non-conforming actions are allowed to prevail and, if we don’t take action now, the situation will only get worse. The benefits are not only for the houseboat owners themselves but for all users of the Harbour, whether they sail small dinghies, canoe, paddleboard, have larger boats as annual berth-holders or visitors or enjoy the water and the environment from the shore.
Obviously prior to such works being commenced we will discuss with each individual houseboat owner the most practical way forward and how the Harbour Authority can work with them to enable the best solution and system for their houseboat. The substantial management time and financial investment will be well worth the long term benefits to all Harbour users and the environment”.
Regeneration Plans update by Malcolm Thorpe 3.8.16
This summer has been very busy for the Harbour - the two highlights have been the Jazz on the Quay weekend and the Family Fun Weekend - both huge successes. As we have now passed the second anniversary of our original planning application, I believe a further briefing note is appropriate.
The decision on 01/12/2015 by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) was a resolution to grant planning consent on a vote of 8 to 1 in favour. This was based on advices and recommendations from all the major agencies - Natural England, the Environment Agency, Island Roads and the Isle of Wight Council, with our application fulfilling the Governments’ guidelines and commitment that new housing development should be constructed on brownfield sites (ie: previously developed sites).
All further information requested by the LPA was submitted in May and the S106 Planning Agreement is now almost agreed - the most important aspect being that all the beneficial works and upgrades to the Harbour facilities are implemented prior to the new houses being constructed. We are currently and patiently waiting for a report to be submitted to the planning committee to re-confirm all this latest information.
The Head of Planning has stated (quote): “The report for planning committee is an update report and is not an opportunity to review the outcome of the decision."
However the Bembridge Harbour Trust (BHT) continues to lobby against this application with the majority of their assertions being based on assumptions. The last formal meeting they attended with the Harbour was in 2014 by their previous Chairman - their new Chairman stated in 2015 (quote): “I think it is relatively unlikely that we can engage meaningfully whilst the current planning application process is in train.”
The latest delaying tactic by BHT has been to ask the LPA to instruct the District Valuer’s office to consider the financial viability aspects of our planning application - this aspect was thoroughly examined by the LPA prior to the resolution to grant planning consent; so far 3 months have been spent on this one item alone.
It is worth noting that every letter and email BHT send to the LPA threatens them with a judicial review challenge; hence we have taken this threat seriously and have held back our 2016 dredging programme to conserve circa £60,000 in case we need to appoint a leading barrister to present our planning case and assist the LPA in defending their position. It is to be noted that such a legal challenge is not against the Harbour and the planning decision itself, but against the lawfulness of the process and technical procedures that have been adopted by the LPA.
I find it interesting that whilst the published aims and objects of BHT mirror those of the Harbour Authority, BHT’s interpretation and understanding is completely different to ours.
In conclusion I can best repeat my previous thoughts that we are hugely frustrated and disappointed by BHT’s continuation to pursue their technical legal arguments against the LPA that prevents us moving forwards with further improvements and investment into the Harbour.
3rd August 2016
Regeneration Plans update by Malcolm Thorpe 1.6.16
Article featured in County Press 27.5.16
Update statement of 8.4.16
Article featured in County Press 27.11.15