Debate ongoing over who will run historic seaside harbour
PUBLISHED: 05:31 05 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:52 06 February 2020
Discussions are ongoing over who manages a historic Suffolk harbour - with lawyers saying the committee should consist of both community leaders and other interested parties.
Southwold Harbour, which over the past few years has been managed by a charitable trust, has been at the centre of debate as authorities seek to preserve it from rising sea levels.
Law firm Ashfords, which represents East Suffolk, has said there should be a 'best practise' model of a near-equal split between council members and independents in a forthcoming Harbour Management Committee (HMC) - giving residents more of a say in the harbour's future.
Ashfords added that an equal split would be required to pass the Harbour Order of 1933.
David Beavan, district and town councillor for Southwold, said: "I welcome this approach, which should give us a management committee of local people who know what they are doing, not a gaggle of councillors who don't.
"We are prepared to give this a go and hope that the council will include skilled locals in their selection, as opposed to just 'yes' men.
"However, if they betray our trust we will fight them all the way over the Harbour Order amendment.
"Let's work together to protect our harbour from the threat of sea level rise, before it is too late."
Ian Bradbury, town mayor of Southwold, said: "If the creation of an HMC will enable reaches of the Upper Blyth Estuary to receive financial benefit, in the long-term struggle to extend the life of our working harbour, history may determine that it was a significant and beneficial outcome to what has been a protracted and somewhat frustrating negotiating process."
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Craig Rivett, East Suffolk cabinet member for economic development, added: "This is a momentous decision and I am delighted that councillors signed up to it so enthusiastically.
"This decision marks the breaking of a 40 year deadlock and marks the start of a period where the harbour will be managed in the interests of Southwold, harbour users, the two councils and the local economy."
A deal was struck to share control of Southwold Harbour amongst members of a management group last March.
The then-Waveney District Council approved a motion to create a Harbour Management Committee consisting of eight people.
Membership was to be shared between residents and businesses alongside others with specific skills or experience in port management.
The committee was billed as a "middle ground" between a charitable trust and a new trading company owning the harbour.
However, the composition of the committee has become the source of debate, with various councils proposing different make-ups.
Ashfords' latest statement has pleased Mr Beavan, who believes the future of the harbour should be kept in Southwold residents' hands.
He added: "The harbour is so important - it's part of the attraction of Southwold.
"Without the harbour, we're just another town on the coast."