Concerns Raised Over Duchy’s Harbour Plans
Documents submitted to the Marine Management Organisation as part of the official consultation process have been obtained by Radio Scilly under a Freedom of Information request.
They show concerns over the financial arrangements for the new Trust Port, managed by a Board of Commissioners, which is being proposed by the Duchy.
They announced plans to relinquish their role as the Statutory Harbour Authority last August and are now in the process of gaining approval from the government.
Scilly’s Council debated the issues publicly in February and they have reiterated their opposition to the plans, saying the financial approach, “does not inspire confidence in terms of protecting the community’s most vital asset.”
In particular, they’re worried that revenue for the new organisation would be generated by a £1 passenger levy.
And they’re worried that the current multi-million pound investment being made in harbour infrastructure by the EU could be ‘clawed back’ from any new board put in place to manage the facility.
The Islands’ Partnership has also expressed concern over the passenger levy, saying it goes against their stated aim to increase visitor numbers.
They say further fees would be counterproductive and would be perceived as a, “tax to visit Scilly.”
That’s a risk to the image and reputation of the islands, which would be “significant and hard to reverse,” they say.
The Steamship Company feel they will be unfairly left to pick up the cost of any new management arrangements at the harbour.
They say a passenger levy would increase their fees for using the quay from £130,000 a year to £230,000, and they would be expected to collect it.
The proposed levy would increase a £79 family daytrip ticket by £9.
The Steamship Company feels the financial model is “extremely fragile” and that any shortfall in revenues by the new organisation would be passed onto the transport provider in the form of higher fees in the future.
They also have concerns that there isn’t the expertise the run a new Trust Port on the islands.
They say the prospect of longer-term reliance on “predominantly mainland based commissioners” who have little knowledge of the needs of Scilly “is an unwelcome one.”
Lord Berkeley is a member of the House of Lords who takes a keen interest in Scilly’s transport issues. He’s also a frequent visitor to the islands and is a former Harbour Commissioner at Fowey.
He believes the ‘dowry’ being offered by the Duchy to kick-start the new Trust Port is insufficient and should be around £2m, roughly four years turnover, to cope with any unexpected expenses in the first few years.
And he says the Duchy should hand over harbour buildings, like the new restaurant that is currently being created, rather than creating “complicated” leasing arrangements.
That way, the Trust Port would be able to generate the revenue it needs to operate sustainably.
These objections have been sent back to the Duchy to try to resolve before a Harbour Revision Order is submitted to the government.