SPRING 2018 NEWSLETTER
Message from the Chairman
I would normally have hoped to have got our newsletter to you earlier than this, so I hope you’ll bear with us when you hear what we have been up to.
You will remember that we had been contacted before the last AGM by the Crown Estate and we were all a bit nervous about what that might mean. I think that the underlying concern is the prospect of losing our treasured self-regulation and “Free Harbour” status and what this might mean to us.
So what’s happened? Well, first of all there has been a long delay with the Crown approaching BHA and commencing discussions. It’s nobody’s fault, The Crown were redeploying, so they didn’t really have anybody assigned to talk to us. The Crown has now resolved this, and the chap appointed by them has been involved with Blakeney in the past, and so comes with some useful background knowledge.
The Crown, who own a large part of the land that makes up the Harbour, have leased this land to Natural England (English Nature as it was).
The Crown Estate won’t manage the Harbour themselves. They want this to be regulated through a third party – such as a Local Authority, an authorised Harbour Authority, and potentially, in the case of Blakeney Harbour, Natural England.
We’ve discussed the grandfather rights issues with the Crown and this has led to the potential for years of legal arguments. That’s not to say that the rights aren’t there but it is complicated.
Another significant stakeholder who will have an effect on the Crown’s plans are the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). Some of you may be familiar with this organisation. Set up in 2009 under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, they work a bit like the planning departments in our county and local councils, but for the marine environment rather than the dry land. They have produced a plan for the Humber down to the Thames that gives a framework for marine decision-making and these plans were adopted by the Secretary of State in 2014. Blakeney cannot escape the influence of that plan, although it can, of course, make representations, argue and challenge. It’s up for review in 2020.
A second important thing that the MMO has a responsibility for is the licencing of “constructions” which include directional buoyage, jetties, moorings and pontoons. This would potentially include all of the directional buoyage laid down, for the safety of water users, by BHA. At this point, I would like to stress that BHA has informed the Crown in its meetings that BHA is only responsible for the directional buoyage in the Harbour and not the moorings.
But it’s not all bad news! The Crown who, along with the National Trust, own pretty much all the land that makes up the Harbour, have indicated that if BHA carries on doing what it is doing then the Crown might consider a fairly long-term agreement, over 20 years, during which they wouldn’t interfere with the “Free” nature of the Harbour. The National Trust has said, informally, that they would be likely to agree with whatever the Crown agrees.
In addition to this, the MMO have said that if BHA had some sort of statutory powers we might be able to administer a form of licencing system for “constructions” ourselves. Peter Sharp, our solicitor, and Greg Cooper and Tom Harrison, two of our Trustees, are up to their necks in trying to work out what all this means, and how BHA can best represent members interests. It is occupying an awful lot of the thinking time of all the Trustees.
We seem to have gone from cheerfully doing our own thing: laying directional buoyage – withies – maintaining harbour infrastructure – advisory speed limits – “unofficial” harbour wardens – voluntarily providing safety advice and all the other things we do (and all at a very cheap cost) to facing up to having to deal with a scary number of stakeholders.
It is worth remembering that as well as all of the stakeholders that seem to have floated to the surface in the last few months we are already affected by a whole range of allocations and designations. There is the MMO Inshore Eastern Plan which I’ve already mentioned and runs to hundreds of pages, and covers just about every conceivable activity that might take place. The Harbour is a Special Conservation Area, a Special Protection Area, a RAMSAR site, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a National Nature Reserve, and probably quite a lot more I don’t know about. There’s also the Shoreline Management Plan and of course, rules that we are familiar with, dealing with safety and collisions at sea not to mention the 2013 Marine Navigation Act!
The other thing, I think, is that there is no more important time to remember our charitable objectives – “protect, conserve and improve the Harbour, educate and inform, deter crime and promote public safety”. We must remember that we represent you, our members, and at a time when there seems to be an awful lot of attention on Blakeney Harbour, we must make sure that your interests are central.
And so we have decided to ask you what you think? What should your Charity be planning to do for the future?
We will start this process off at the AGM (more details will be set out in the AGM Agenda) with a planned Public Meeting on 28th June.
We’ll be out enjoying the water, which is what this is all about – very soon!!