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Row over future of iconic harbour resolved

PUBLISHED: 17:20 15 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:59 19 March 2019

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Archant © 2018

A long-running row over who runs a historic harbour has been resolved after a deal was struck to share control amongst members of a new management group.

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHERSouthwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Waveney District Council (WDC) wanted to replace a charitable trust set up to run the much-loved Southwold Harbour in 2015 - made up of parties with an interest in its future - with a new trading company which it would have owned and controlled.

It argued that having full control of the trading company was necessary to invest millions of pounds in the working port, which the council said was necessary to safeguard its future.

However that was met with a fierce backlash from residents concerned WDC was seeking to take control of the harbour, with the Department for Transport (DfT) also saying that a legal order governing the harbour meant the change could not take place.

The council then proposed a new Harbour Management Committee as a “middle ground”, with membership shared between residents and businesses alongside others with specific skills or experience in port management.

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHERSouthwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

The move was agreed at a meeting chaired by WDC leader Mark Bee on Friday, March 15.

A council spokesman said: “Following a thorough and detailed consultation with local people, we are delighted that a decision has been reached that addressed the concerns of various stakeholders while also safeguarding the future of the harbour.

“Investment in the harbour can now take place with confidence and in the knowledge that local people will play a role in a bright future for the town and the site.”

Southwold town mayor Michael Rowan-Robinson said: “Negotiations with Waveney District Council have gone extremely well and they have accepted our concerns about preventing any future resale of the Harbour Lands, ring-fencing the income from the Harbour Lands and strong local involvement on the Harbour Management Committee.

“This is a historic agreement which secures the future of the Harbour for residents, visitors and users.”

Southwold district councillor David Beavan, who is also chairman of the Southwold Haven Ports Users Group, said: “We welcomed the consultation which has promised that ringfencing of all profits, open governance and a ban on sales of our lands.”

He now says he plans to submit a motion to the council calling for “discussions with stakeholders about the constitution of a new, inclusive, independent and effective management committee”.

The WDC spokesman added: “Work will now get under way to begin the process of establishing the committee agreeing its governance and making appointments in the best interest of the harbour.”

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