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Council ‘reconsidering’ proposal to take control of harbour?

PUBLISHED: 11:47 13 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:18 13 October 2018

A controversial bid by a council to take control of a historic harbour could be reconsidered in light of residents’ objections, a letter has suggested.

However Waveney District Council (WDC) said its fundamental position of moving away from the current situation, where a charitable trust runs Southwold Harbour, remains the same.

The trust, made up of people with an interest in the working port, was set up in 2015 to resolve a long-running row over who controls the site.

At public presentations this summer, WDC argued it needed to replace the trust with a new trading company it would own and control in order to make multi-million pound improvements necessary to safeguard its future.

Campaigners from the Southwold Haven Port Stakeholders Group, set up in opposition to the plans, wrote to transport secretary Chris Grayling to argue the harbour would be better managed by residents.

A reply from policy advisor Dean Muir said: “We are aware that, in light of the comments received following the public presentations, the council are reconsidering those proposals.”

A WDC spokesman confirmed it was having ongoing discussions Department for Transport (DfT) about good governance of the port.

He added that the talks “form an important part of the decision-making process and their guidance is very helpful as we try to establish an appropriate management model”.

However the spokesman also said: “Our fundamental position remains the same - that the original charitable model will not enable us to secure the considerable investment required for the harbour.

“We remain committed to coming forward with a plan that delivers this investment.

“The plans that we will bring forward ensure that we achieve the security needed for long-term investment, while also reinforcing the transparency and local involvement that the guidance promotes.”

In his letter, Mr Muir also said: “The council is aware they should follow the advice the advice provided by the department’s Ports Good Governance Guidance, which includes the importance of harbour authorities, including those owned by local authorities, consulting with stakeholders on a wide range of issues to governance of harbours.”

A Southwold Harbour Lands Joint Committee meeting is scheduled for November, where the new plans could be discussed.

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