Uncertainty Over Planning Approval For Porthcressa Moorings

There has been uncertainty over whether a controversial plan to add 20 permanent moorings at Porthcressa has been approved.

Applicant Charlie Carss says she has been granted a licence by the Newcastle-based Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and is not aware of any conditions attached to that licence.

And some islanders who have spoken with the agency tell us they were told days ago that permission would be granted.

However when we contacted Jeremy Evans, the Marine Consents Officer from the MMO, he initially emailed saying that no licence had yet been granted, although he admitted in a subsequent phone call that the applicant had been told verbally on 22nd December that approval “was the most likely pathway.”

However, Mr Evans added that there will be a “myriad” of conditions added to the licence, based on feedback from local agencies, although he declined to tell us what these were.

We understand that the MCA raised concerns about the safety of the moorings with the MMO planners and several local consultees have been told that the last day for feedback was 4th January.

The whole process has troubled some islanders who feel that any decision that affects their view should go through the regular planning process.

There have been complaints that the MMO hasn’t publicised their processes and consultation.

Mr Evans says that they operate a ‘tiering’ system for applications, based on the likely impact and scale.

This scheme is considered to be the lowest level, tier 1, so would not normally require public notification or consultation.

Moorings Part Of Larger Business Plan

Charlie says the application for the moorings is part of a larger business plan to sustain an ‘on call’ diving team on the islands.

She told us the moorings will provide a separate income stream for a complementary plan to purchase Scavenger Diving Services.

The current diving service is unviable, says Charlie, as it has, by law, to support three employees and there are no other parties interested in buying the business.

If she didn’t step in, there wouldn’t be a diving boat or the appropriate number of H.S.E. commercially-ticketed divers and crew to maintain and service the 450 existing moorings or support emergency assistance in cases of ropes caught around propellers. The crew could also be called on to do a sweep of the harbour berth in order to ensure that the Scillonian and the Gry Maritha can be docked safely.

Some objectors are worried that the moorings will offer a false sense of security, especially in a strong south or south-easterly. Charlie says if a storm is forecast, they will advise yachts verbally and via Wi-Fi that the moorings on Porthcressa Bay are not suitable.

Appropriate alternative locations will also be stated in the leaflets that they will hand out when visiting the moorings twice daily.

Charlie says they will also buy a 5m safety rib that will be kept at Porthcressa, separate to the Scavenger.

And she says fears about late night access to the moorings are unfounded as there are visitor moorings in the Harbour, St Martins and Tresco, which visiting yachtsmen have approached by day and at night, over many, many years now, and Porthcressa will be no different.

The project is in line with the Council’s Porthcressa re-development scheme, which is aiming to encourage visiting yachtsmen to continue to use Porthcressa, by offering, amongst other things, showers and washing facilities.

With visitor numbers dropping, and increasing transport costs to the islands, Charlie says we should be encouraging these sailors, who can get here under their own steam.

Over the years, they have tended to drag their anchors in Porthcressa, as they did in the harbour, prior to those moorings being placed there.

She says a senior member of the RYA contacted her and said how pleased he was that this facility would finally be available to yachtsmen in Porthcressa Bay.

The work is expected to start in the early spring and a Local Action Group application is being prepared. Charlie says if the project ended, the moorings would be removed.

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