Talks over future of Southwold Harbour Lands to begin this month
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The future of Southwold's harbour lands is set to be debated when a new group meets for the first time to resolve a long-running dispute over the ownership and management of the area.
The newly-formed joint committee of Waveney District and Southwold Town councillors is preparing to meet for the first time this month to determine who will run the harbour, caravan site and surrounding area in the long-term.
Historically both councils have claimed ownership of the area.
Will Windell, who is a town councillor and member of the joint committee, said he was cautiously optimistic the committee would be able to agree a solution within the next six to nine months.
He said town councillors would also be working to ring fence the revenues from the harbour lands and establish security of tenure for caravan owners, who had a historic mistrust of Waveney.
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He said: 'For us as a town council, we feel it is imperative to get security of tenure for caravan owners. They want a longer lease.
'Waveney can be very late with their invoices for the leases and people think it is part of a ploy to get them off site. It feeds suspicions that something is going on and they are being ripened for a takeover by a company like Hoseasons or Tingdene.'
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He said the town council believed there was enough money being generated within the harbour lands to gradually upgrade the caravan site, which is badly in need of investment, rather than bringing in an independent company to take it on.
He said the harbour had also suffered from a lack of reinvestment, resulting in Waveney taking out a loan to repair the north training arm, which now had to be paid back with interest.
He added: 'We also feel its important that all the money generated by the harbour lands should remain within it.
'That's the main issue, which will mean transparency. This is where the work is going to be.'
The area known as Southwold Harbour Lands was bequeathed to the people of Southwold by William Godell in 1509 and 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.
Southwold Borough Council was dissolved in 1972, leading to the creation of the town council and Waveney District Council.
The ownership of the harbour lands has been disputed ever since, with both councils laying claim to it.
Following a public consultation, both councils agreed to form a joint committee in July to temporarily oversee the harbour lands until a formal agreement for the future management of the area can be put in place.
Waveney has been collecting the revenue from the harbour lands for a number of years.
Mr Windell said Waveney leader Colin Law had now given assurances that money would be ring fenced within the area.
However, he said councillors had spent a lot of time attempting to clarify the accounts with Waveney and had so far been unable to establish how much revenue the area had generated and where it had been spent.
He added: 'The town council is aware that we can't expect Waveney to suddenly stop all that money going in to its general fund.
'We are speaking about gradual integration of that money.
'Really they have become reliant on money they don't own.
'The 1933 Harbour Order states that all profits should remain within the harbour lands and there has never been a parliamentary act to rescind that.'
Waveney leader Colin Law said: 'This is the latest stage of a programme which we hope will make real progress in Southwold and we look forward to continuing the good working relationship that has been established.'
Southwold's representatives on the working group include Mr Windell, Simon Tobin, John Winter and Ian Bradbury with Robert Temple and Katie Flodin acting as reserves.
Waveney councillors Colin Law, Bruce Provan, Mary Rudd and Mike Barnard will be working on behalf of the district.