BASHHA :: Bembridge Harbour Ownership

Harbour building development proposals May 2014

Sentinel Special Issue 49A is published 20 May 2014 in order to update you on Harbour building development proposals, for which an outline planning application is imminent.

Read it online here

BASHHA Committee has considered the proposals very carefully, and decided that they should be opposed. We do appreciate that Malcolm Thorpe wants to generate funds for improvements to Harbour facilities, but we also have to consider that none of the improvements actually benefits the community as a whole, or local (as opposed to visiting) Harbour users, or the environment.

The Sentinel Special Issue 49A is almost entirely about the proposed building works. We begin with a summary of the proposals based on notes taken by Mike Samuelson and by me from Malcolm Thorpe's presentation to a joint meeting of BASHHA, BHUG and Brading Haven Yacht Club on 6 May.

We then go on to a full version of BASHHA Committee's objections giving the reasons for each objection. We shall submit these to IWC when consultation opens, but meanwhile we hope they may be helpful to members wishing to comment in the consultation.

We will try to notify all members as soon as IWC publishes a planning application. If you aren't already a BASHHA member, you might like to join us here. It only costs £5 !

New Owners Promise Improved Communication

Malcolm and Fiona Thorpe have bought Bembridge Harbour Improvements Company Limited for an undisclosed sum. The Thorpes own a number of property development/ management companies, and Malcolm Thorpe is a non-executive director of Cowes Yacht Haven Marina as well as sitting on Yarmouth Harbour Advisory Committee.

Their bid was chosen in preference to Bembridge Harbour Trust, which was set up to purchase and subsequently manage the harbour for the community. In an Isle of Wight County Press interview (IWCP December 30, 2011), Malcolm Thorpe said:
“We believe the Trust will get exactly what it wants without having to make the capital outlay. We really do want to involve the community in how the harbour is run.”
Thorpe also stressed the saving of 8 harbour jobs, and said they would take a very public role in managing the harbour, giving full support to harbourmaster Chris Turvey and his team.
Meetings have already taken place with stakeholders and harbour users.
BHT pledged to work with the new owners for the benefit of the community.

Robin Powell (Chairman BH Users Group) writes:

“Mike Samuelson and I met Malcolm Thorpe on Wednesday afternoon 11th January 2012 at the Harbour Office when it quickly became apparent that management of the Harbour will be taking a turn for the better.
Malcolm has a number of positive and innovative ideas which he will be revealing at a public meeting to be held on the 31st of January at 6pm in Bembridge Village Hall.
This is indicative of his intention to improve communication between himself, the company employees, harbour users and the local community which we thought particularly encouraging especially as this has been so sadly lacking in the past! We spent two hours discussing various matters that have been of concern for some time and came away feeling that our concerns were understood and that they will be sympathetically dealt with. It was very apparent that his enthusiasm allied with his experience with both Cowes and Yarmouth harbours will be invaluable in getting Bembridge shipshape again.”

Communication will be a great leap forward, so will consultation, but this is no substitute for involvement in decision making, much less for community ownership. Clearly a private sector owner must have different financial and management priorities from a public Trust; it will necessarily operate under different financial constraints and without fiscal and fundraising privileges. We have at this stage no idea of how the balance of commercial, community and environmental interests will be arrived at. However, the positive reaction of BHT and BHUG encourages hopes for the future. BASHHA Chairman and Vice Chairman will be meeting Malcolm Thorpe next week.

We hope to see you at the Thorpes’ public meeting on 31 January, 6 p.m. at Bembridge Village Hall.

Janet Shuter 2012:01:18   

Bembridge Harbour Trust's bid unsuccessful

Michael MacInnes, Chairman of Bembridge Harbour Trust writes:

The Agents acting for the Administrators advised us on Monday, 7 November, that Bembridge Harbour Trust had not been selected by Handelsbanken as the preferred bidder.

The preferred bid is now subject to due diligence and the Agents say they hope to close the sale by the end of the year.

This is most disappointing after all the fantastic support that we have received from Founder members, the local Community and many others.

An enormous amount of work went into preparing our offer. It was most carefully and thoughtfully worked out as being absolutely commercially fair and reasonable based on our extensive knowledge of the Harbour, its business and its future prospects under our care. We also took into account the very large essential costs of the required dredging, repairs and other important improvements, for which we obtained independent expert confirmation.

We are certainly not closing the door on our objective of acquiring the Harbour outright or being involved in some other way in its future ownership and management on behalf of all the local communities as much may still happen; we need to be patient and responsible. The long history of Bembridge Harbour has been full of surprises.

We will be working up our ongoing strategy as well as keeping in close touch with all those involved in the sale process.

Bembridge Harbour in Administration

On 12th April, 2011 Bembridge Harbour Improvements Company (BHIC) and Maritime and Leisure Investments Ltd (MLI) went into administration. Two administrators from RSM Tenon have been appointed and currently Chris Turvey has been retained as Harbourmaster and Director together with the BHIC staff. The Harbour will continue to be run as a going concern.

There are complex legal issues involved in sorting out the business affairs, assets and liabilities of the companies before the Harbour can be offered for sale. The administrators are aware of health and safety concerns in the harbour and urgent repairs such as those required to Fisherman’s pontoon will be addressed.

Bembridge Harbour Trust made three realistic offers to buy the Harbour during the 15 months it was for sale, but all were rejected as too low. It is hoped that when it eventually becomes available for sale again, BHT will be successful in acquiring the Harbour and its associated properties; bringing it up to standard, as dredging has not been undertaken for 8 years; and running it for the long term benefit of the communities of Bembridge and St Helens.

BHUG Blog's updates include hopeful news:

At a House of Commons meeting in mid-May, the Minister in charge of the country's ports says he understands the need to protect Bembridge Harbour for the local community; and IWC Councillor Giles says the Council would welcome the Harbour being in responsible local ownership and that Bembridge Harbour Trust was considered to be an ideal local body which the Council would welcoming taking ownership.

Further information and updates on Bembridge Harbour Users Group blog

BHT's report of their first public meeting, in their own words:

"Bembridge Harbour Trust holds its first public meeting to involve local people in its forthcoming bid for Bembridge Harbour.

Bembridge Harbour Trust, the charity formed to buy Bembridge Harbour, will set up a Harbour Commission modelled on the Cowes Harbour Commission if its bid is successful. This was revealed by Mr Michael MacInnes, the chairman of the Trust, when he spoke to a packed Village Hall in Bembridge of local residents from East Wight and other parts of the Island on Friday evening (15 July).

Mr MacInnes was addressing the first public meeting of the Trust which was organised to involve local communities in the Trust’s plans to purchase the harbour and seek their support for the forthcoming bid.

This was the first of a series of public meetings the Trust will arrange in St. Helens, Brading, Nettlestone and Seaview over the coming months, he said.

Among the audience were the Island’s MP, Mr Andrew Turner, Councillors Jonathan Bacon and Patrick Joyce, Parish Councillors, leading businessmen and representatives of local interest groups and societies in the area including representatives from local sailing clubs.

The Trust’s aim, Mr MacInnes made clear, was to buy and manage the harbour on behalf of the local communities in perpetuity. Once the large backlog of restoration and maintenance had been achieved, the harbour would be run as a commercial enterprise with all profits retained to pay for on-going maintenance and to improve the harbour’s facilities.

Mr MacInnes explained that he had recently spoken to the Administrators who had informed him that an outline sales document for the combined businesses and assets of the harbour companies would be published soon. Mr MacInnes explained that until these documents were seen the Trust was only guessing what would be for sale and at what price.

He explained in answer to questions how the bid would be funded that the Trust had individuals ready to support the Trust on a purely charitable basis as well as a commercial consortium which, if no alternative was available, could purchase the properties surrounding the harbour and hold them. There would be terms allowing the Trust to repurchase the properties on favourable terms.

Mr MacInnes said that the harbour itself should not command a high price. Any potential bidder, he said, would soon discover that a great deal of money needed to be spent in restoring and renovating the harbour to make it a viable operation. He indicated that over £1/2m would be needed to dredge the channels and pontoon areas in the harbour and further similar sums would be needed to repair the pontoons, harbour walls and groynes. This is why the Trust was seeking to raise £1m of charitable funds from the public, a certain amount of which was already pledged.

In answer to a question it was acknowledged that it may be necessary, if there were other bidders, to pay more for the Harbour than it was commercially worth. However the Trust’s wish was that the majority of charitable funds raised would be spent on essential work to rectify years of neglect in the harbour. It was pointed out that the harbour had not been dredged for eight years.

Mr MacInnes also explained that he had recently led a delegation of fellow Trustees, Mr Andrew Turner MP, Island Councillor Edward Giles and Council senior official, Stuart Love, and Mr Robin Powell of the Bembridge and St. Helens Harbour Users Group to see the Ports Minister, Mr Mike Penning MP. The outcome of the meeting was that the Minister had written to the administrators informing them that the Secretary of State for Transport was required to give prior written consent to any sale. Mr MacInnes said he felt that a community-led Trust would be exactly what the Government would like to see owning Bembridge harbour. This necessary referral to the Secretary of State could also discourage inappropriate bidders from acquiring the harbour.

Mr MacInnes also thanked the Solent Protection Society for their support and said that Mr Bear Grylls, the Chief Scout and TV adventure celebrity, who had many local connections with Bembridge, had offered to help the Trust by serving on the Advisory Board.

Taking questions, the Vicar of Bembridge, Canon Andrew Menniss and Councillor Bacon both urged the Trust to give local people the opportunity to become fully involved with the Trust’s plans. Mr MacInnes agreed that this was an important matter for consideration. After the meeting Mr MacInnes said it was exactly this type of question, airing local concerns, that had made Friday’s meeting so useful to him and the Trustees. They would be looking into the constitution of the Trust and looking at the way other similar Trusts were run before making recommendations. Finally, he invited the audience to make pledges to support the “Saving Bembridge Harbour” Appeal. Any sums pledged, he confirmed, would not be called in unless the Trust’s bid for the harbour was successful.

The meeting lasted over 90 minutes. It was proposed that the next meetings will be held in St. Helens and Seaview during August.

Bembridge Harbour Trust is a registered charity number 1120225. It was registered in July 2007. The Trust is also company limited by guarantee and is registered under company number 05671595"