We will not sell Southwold Harbour, council pledges in row over who controls it
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A harbour at the centre of a long-running dispute would not be sold by a council should it succeed in gaining full control for managing it.
That is the pledge that has been made by Waveney District Council’s (WDC) head of operations, Kerry Blair, as a row continues over how Southwold Harbour should be run.
The authority wants to invest possible “double-figure multi-millions of pounds over the coming years” into the site, which is thought necessary to modernise a facility that is an important part of the town’s economy.
But it wants to replace a charitable trust set up in 2015, made up of parties with an interest in the harbour’s future, with a new trading company that would owned and controlled by the council.
It believes having full control over how the trading company is run will make it easier to invest the cash needed into the working port.
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But that has angered some businesses in harbour and people who use the area, who believe the Harbour Trust set up 2015 resolved the dispute.
Their fear is that should Waveney District Council succeed in setting up the new trading company, it would look at sell the site - as it once tried to do in 2003.
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But Mr Blair said: “The idea the council is somehow going to sell it - there’s absolute crystal clarity on our part that’s not going to happen.
“That’s not what this is about.”
He added that it would be written into the articles of agreement of the new trading company that the site could not be sold, should it be set up.
The Southwold Haven Port Stakeholders Group has been set up in opposition to the plans.
It has 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”.
Mr Blair acknowledged that the “arrangements for managing the harbour have been an object of discussion for a number of years”.
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.