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Harbour won't get multi-million investment unless we retain control of it, council warns

PUBLISHED: 13:02 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:02 17 July 2018

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Archant © 2018

A harbour will not get the multi-million investment it needs unless a council retains complete control for managing it, it has been warned.

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

Waveney District Council (WDC) is willing to invest a possible “double-figure multi-millions of pounds over the coming years” into Southwold Harbour, which is thought necessary to modernise the facility that is an important part of the town’s economy.

But it now says an agreement struck in 2015 for the harbour to be controlled by a charitable trust, made up of parties with an interest in the harbour’s future, is a potential barrier to the funding it needs.

Instead it wants to replace the charitable trust with a new trading company owned and controlled by the council, so it is easier to inject the necessary cash into the working port.

That has caused anger amongst some businesses in the harbour, who believe the Harbour Trust set up in 2015 resolved a bitter and long-running row over who controlled the area.

Mike Pickles, left, and Kim Peskett at Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHERMike Pickles, left, and Kim Peskett at Southwold Harbour. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Mike Pickles, who works at Southwold Harbour, said: “Everyone here is happy with the 2015 agreement,” adding: “It addressed what everyone wanted.”

A website set up by the Southwold Haven Port Stakeholders Group in opposition to the plans said its goal is to “challenge WDC on all aspects of their new delivery model relating to the future control of Southwold Harbour, with the aim of convincing WDC to abandon this model and revert to the March 2015 Agreement”.

WDC head of operations Kerry Blair said the council wanted to make sure there continues to be local input into the harbour’s future, adding that Southwold residents would help to make up the trading company’s board of directors.

“We only want to do things in the harbour that would be acceptable locally,” he said.

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

However he said: “We know there needs to be significant investment in the harbour.

“There are possible double-figure millions of pounds over the coming years.

“WDC is willing to make that investment but to make that investment, we need to make sure we keep control of the harbour.”

He acknowledged that the “arrangements for managing the harbour have been an object of discussion for a number of years”.

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

Yet despite the concerns raised by some businesses, Mr Blair said: “The public mood is positive about the prospect for investment.”

Discussions about the new arrangements will take place throughout the summer, with Mr Blair saying that he hoped the new trading company would be up and running by the end of 2018.

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