Lord Berkeley Says Community Run Harbour Could Have Benefits For Scilly


Lord Berkeley in the House of Lords

Lord Berkeley in the House of Lords

A Member of the House of Lords who visits Scilly regularly says St Mary’s Harbour could work as a community-led operation.

Lord Berkeley spoke to Radio Scilly following the announcement that the Duchy of Cornwall was looking at ways to hand over the running of St Mary’s Quay.

The Duchy say the review is taking place in light of recent litigation, which has thrown up questions about the potential implications of their status as the Statutory Harbour Authority in Scilly.

In 2011, a Helford River resident won a court case against the Duchy in a bid to get them to release environmental information about their oyster beds. The judge ruled they should be classed as a public authority, partly because of their role at St Mary’s Harbour, although that case is still under appeal.

It’s thought this could open up the backdoor for more information requests in the future.

Lord Berkeley says there’s not a lot of detail yet about the Duchy’s plans. But he said many smaller harbours around the country are run as so-called Trust Ports, including Fowey in Cornwall. Until recently, he was a member of their Harbour Commission.

He says these are part way between a state-run organisation and a private company, with a committee of around ten people drawn from stakeholders in the community, like fishermen, boatmen and commercial freight users. There are no shareholders and any profit is ploughed back into the facility.

Businesses like the Steamship Company could also be represented, although they’d have to declare an interest if there were discussions about other operators and they wouldn’t be able to block a competitor.

Lord Berkeley cautioned that a lot would depend on how much income the harbour could generate from mooring and commercial fees, although he Duchy told Radio Scilly last week that St Mary’s Harbour has made a profit for the last few years.

And he said any changes would need close consultation with the community to ensure the right solution is put in place. The Department for Transport would also need to give their permission for any new management structure here and that’s likely to take some time, he says.

Lord Berkeley says the community in Scilly could get many benefits from any proposed changes but there could also be some serious pitfalls too, and islanders should keep watching closely to make sure the end result is sustainable.

He says he has many contacts in this field who would gladly help out with advice.

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