Wells Harbour Commissioners: Statement on Dredging (UK)

Statement on Dredging

Wells Harbour Commissioners (WHC) have received legitimate complaints from fishermen and other users of deeper draught craft regarding the delays to the WHC dredging licence application. WHC are issuing this explanation of the situation, which it is working hard to resolve.

Due to a build up of sand in the Channel leading to Wells Harbour, Wells Harbour Commissioners are considering applying to the MMO (Marine Management Organisation) for an emergency dredging licence, permitting it to deepen the Channel to the normal depth that has been maintained since dredging began in 2009. This follows recent problems for fishing boats and other deeper draught craft, accessing the Harbour on small tides.

So far one fishing boat has had to temporarily relocate from Wells to another Port, due to lack of dredging.

Harbour Master Robert Smith explains:

We greatly regret the current situation, which arose because after ten months of negotiation over details of a new dredging licence, on 26th March MMO suddenly informed us that it had decided not to issue a new licence, just days before the current licence was due to expire on 9 April, and on the eve of the Easter Holidays.

“An end to dredging of the Channel between the seaward buoys and the Lifeboat House would render the Outer Harbour used by wind farm boats and fishing boats, unusable, thereby cutting a vital economic lifeline which has brought dozens of jobs, investment of millions of pounds and vital new prospects to the working population and young people of Wells and the surrounding area. Consequently we expressed our alarm and concern to MMO, with the support of our MP Norman Lamb, North Norfolk District Council, Scira and others. Wells Town Council had also recently passed a resolution in support of the dredging.

“The purpose of the dredging is to deepen the channel sufficiently to allow economically viable periods of access, which is particularly important on small (Neap) tides. Without dredging the new Outer Harbour could not operate.

“We believed that MMO’s refusal, which was on grounds that had not been clearly raised with us in the many exchanges that took place over the previous ten months, was stimulated by objections to our dredging operation by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) and the small Wells Dayboat Association (WDBA), formed by a few long-term objectors to the dredging project, along with misunderstandings about the dredging operation methodology.

“We at once expressed our desire to resolve the issue with MMO constructively, and MMO kept the licence application open while constructive dialogue continued. Fortunately, over the past two months, the weather improved to the extent that only now has a problem arisen with depths in the area of number 3 buoy . We have now submitted further licence application detail, both on dredging methodology and on local sand and tide movements, to the MMO, who assure us that they will process the application as soon as possible. This has taken weeks of further work, site visits, and commissioning of scientific reports and surveys and legal advice, at considerable cost to WHC, which will eventually impact the economics of the Harbour and all harbour users.

“Wells Sailing Club which represents the vast majority of recreational sailors in Wells, has written to the MMO clarifying that it does not share the views expressed by WDBA and the RYA.

“We have sought to resolve this issue privately but now that an Emergency Licence maybe necessary, we are issuing this statement for the sake of clarity. MMO have assured us that they will grant such licences as are necessary to allow us to maintain safe navigational access into the Port”.

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Press Release, May 23, 2013

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