We’ll defend our rights in bitter row over who controls harbour, say residents

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER - Credit: Nick Butcher

Campaigners have vowed to continue to fight for their rights after a meeting was held to try and resolve an ongoing dispute over who controls an iconic harbour.

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER - Credit: Nick Butcher

Members of the Southwold Harbour Lands Joint Committee said the meeting on Tuesday, December 18 to discuss how the area should be managed was constructive, with plenty of common ground about what should happen in the future.

Waveney District Council (WDC) wants to replace a charitable trust made up of parties with an interest in its future, arguing it does not give it the freedom and control necessary to make £20million of improvements needed at the working port.

But its original plan to replace the trust with a new trading company which it would have owned and controlled appears to be over, after a strong public backlash from residents concerned the council would disregard the views of people locally.

The Department for Transport (DfT) also said a legal order governing the harbour meant such a transfer of power could not take place.

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER - Credit: Nick Butcher

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At the meeting at the Stella Peskett Millennium Hall in Southwold, WDC proposed a “middle ground” of a new Harbour Management Committee, with membership shared between residents and businesses alongside others with specific skills or experience in port management.

That will now be subject to consultation before any decisions are made.

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Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee said afterwards: “The meeting was very constructive and there was a clear and obvious desire from all parties to take this matter forward resolve the future of the harbour as soon as possible.

“Although we may not all agree on some of the detail, there is plenty of common ground and we are entirely clear that local control of the harbour is at the heart of our plans and ambitions.

“We now look forward to taking our proposals to a consultation stage and allowing all those with an interest to have their say.”

A spokesman for the Southwold Haven Port Stakeholders Group, set up in opposition to WDC’s original proposal of a new trading company, said there was still much uncertainty around the new plans but said: “We’re as keen to find a practical, long-term solution as Waveney is.

“We will continue to ensure that the harbour and caravan site are not sold, are managed by people who know what they are talking about and that local stakeholders have a say in what happens to them.”

Southwold district councillor David Beavan said at the meeting: “The harbour belongs to us.

“Our town motto is written on the parish pump – ‘Defend thy rights’. We will do just that.”

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