May 24 2013 Latest news:
Friday, March 1, 2013
A row erupted this week over the future of Southwold Harbour amid claims that Waveney District Council had broken a promise to hand over the ownership rights to a charitable trust.
Angry campaigners attended Tuesday’s town council meeting to voice their frustration at Waveney’s continued claim on the harbour lands and assets – which includes the nearby caravan site – and the revenue it generates.
They insisted the town council was the legal owner of the harbour and called for it to come back under its control.
At Tuesday’s meeting, campaigners presented a “letter of undertaking”, signed by Waveney District Council and Southwold Town Council in February 2011, agreeing to put disagreements over ownership to one side and transfer any rights they had to the harbour to a new body called the Southwold Harbour Trust.
Prospective voluntary trustees signed up to the scheme four years ago and have since being working with Waveney to bring the project to fruition to secure the long-term sustainability of the harbour.
But Alan Davies, chairman of the prospective Southwold Harbour Trust, said the process had ground to a halt.
He said: “After four years of effort on our part, and despite a letter of intent being signed by Waveney District Council, we can make no further progress in setting up the trust to which we were appointed.
“Waveney are not going to set up this trust and transfer rights over the harbour lands and assets to a local body.”
Mr Davies said he believed Waveney intended to keep the income from the caravan site and would not take out loans to carry out the “significant and essential capital investment programme”, as the trust would have done.
As a result, he said, the harbour would continue to decay, putting its long-term operational capability at risk.
Mr Davies said Waveney proposed an alternative solution a year ago, to establish a joint management committee, but this had not moved forward and it would not have resolved the problem of the revenue from the harbour not being reinvested in it.
“The only way forward that is now likely to ensure the harbour can be maintained in a fit-for-purpose condition in the future is for Southwold Town council to establish its rightful ownership over the harbour lands and assets and then set up a local trust to govern its operations,” he added.
Graham Hay Davison, chairman of the Southwold Harbour and River Blyth Users Association, echoed Mr Davies’ sentiments and urged the town council to recognise its responsibilities and take action.
Mr Hay Davison said there had long been disagreement over the ownership of the harbour, which was run as a charitable undertaking managed by commissioners and trustees until their duties, obligations and responsibilities were transferred to Southwold Borough Council, now the town council, in 1898.
The 1933 Southwold Harbour Order confirmed the validity of that transfer and confirmed the borough council as the trustee of the charitable undertaking. Its charitable holdings were legally devolved to its successor – the town council – when it was formed under the 1972 Local Government Act.
Mr Hay Davison said the town council claimed to have given the charitable undertaking to Waveney in 1974 but the terms of 1933 Order prevented this, and only an Act of Parliament could relieve it of its responsibilities.
Town councillors debated the issue during Tuesday’s meeting.
Southwold mayor Michael Ladd said the town council had met the leader and chief executive of Waveney three weeks ago and now had to decide a way forward and stick to it.
Simon Tobin suggested a working group of four councillors should look in depth at the town council’s options with the prospective trust members and the harbour users group and report back to the meeting in March.
He said: “We have to be 100pc crystal clear and right on this. If we go into court action with Waveney and we are not right it will cost us a fortune.”
Members voted in favour of the proposal for the working group, which will include Mr Tobin, John Windell, Robin Winter and Ian Bradbury.
A Waveney spokesman said: “Although we understand that a range of views were expressed at the meeting, the town council reached a consensus decision to move this issue forward constructively. They will now form a working group to discuss our ideas further with the trustees.
“Our position remains the same. We are ready and committed to work with the town council and the trustees to manage the future of the harbour in a way that fairly balances the needs of all.”
Terrorism returned to the streets of London today as two suspected Muslim fanatics butchered a man in broad daylight in the name of “Allah”.
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