INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
1. Tenby Harbour is a municipal port owned and managed by the Local Authority, Pembrokeshire County Council.
2. The Council is the Harbour Authority. Decisions regarding the management and future of the harbour are made by the Council.
3. In 2000 and 2006 two major reviews took place into the management of ports in England and Wales, namely the Trust Ports Review ( 2000 ) and The Municipal Ports Review ( 2006 ). The resulting recommendations highlighted the experience of ports which had adopted a Harbour Board in place of the Local Authority as the Harbour Authority. Workington and Whitstable received particular mention.
4. Subsequently a considerable number of ports have changed the way in which they are managed by adopting a Harbour Board in place of local authority governance. A Harbour Board would consist of about 8 individuals comprising Local Authority appointees and individuals chosen for their relevant skills and knowledge.. It would have all powers and duties to improve, maintain and manage the harbour. The Reviews recognised that the main benefits of a Harbour Board were that it provided an accountable, expert and more responsive form of governance.
5. Pembrokeshire County Council has yet to act upon the Reviews in its governance of Tenby Harbour.. Shortly it will be conducting a major review of the way in which Tenby harbour is managed. As the Harbour Authority the LA has a responsibility to ensure that an appropriate governance regime is in place.
6. The results of the review by PCC will be critical to the development of the harbour and its role in the wider community. Possible outcomes for Tenby Harbour include being taken over by private enterprise or by an existing port in another area.
TENBY HARBOUR USERS ASSOCIATION
7. Tenby Harbour Users Association (THUA ) strongly supports the adoption of a Harbour Board as the best way to manage the harbour and believes that a change to other management structures could destroy the unique qualities of the harbour.
8. Tenby Harbour Users Association was founded in the 1970s with a declared aim of “preserving the character of Tenby Harbour for the benefit of its users, whether residents of the town or visitors “. Over the years it has played key roles in helping to protect the marine environment, e.g. The Tenby Campaign for Clean Seas in 1995 and the Sea Empress oil disaster in 1996 . It has over 40 years’ experience of communicating to the local authority the views, needs and concerns of harbour users. It has its finger on the pulse of harbour life.
THUA is in a unique position to work with PCC in shaping and moulding the development of Tenby harbour at this crucial time in the harbour’s existence.
9. Consultation with harbour users reveals a passionate concern about its future. For many it is a way of life that has existed for generations. They want the harbour to be well managed, responsive to their needs and respectful of them. They want their own voices to be heard and they need a Harbour Authority that will listen and act.
10. THUA has studied the development of ports highlighted by the government as being models of best practice. We have visited Ilfracombe harbour and held long discussions with the harbour master and others to learn more about the stages of development in the adoption of a Harbour Board. We have chosen Ilfracombe Harbour to study as there is a clear synergy between the two harbours.
A HARBOUR BOARD
11. The Municipal Ports Review recommended municipal ports to consider the adoption of a Harbour Board in the following key passage :
“A number of local authorities have already examined alternative options with the aid of independent consultants. Ideas considered included Trust status, public – public partnership, public-private partnership or privatisation for port ownership. So far all these consultants have recommended the adoption of Harbour Board status as a means of placing municipal ports on a more commercially sustainable footing.”
12. In the case of Ilfracombe Harbour the local authority engaged the services of consultants “ to investigate the opportunities to develop and modernise the Harbour Authority under the existing framework in accordance with modern best practice and the requirements of the Port Marine Safety Code together with recent advice and guidance from the government “.
The resulting report by the consultants was entitled “ The Future Governance of Ilfracombe Harbour “.
We look at this in some detail later on.
13. In another passage the MPR looked at some of the benefits of adopting a Harbour Board.
MPR 4.20: “A particular benefit likely to be derived from the Harbour Board model is that the mixture of members on the governing body should provide relevant expertise, local representation and independence. The local authority nominees should include those with a direct professional interest, including harbour masters, and members of special interest groups, guaranteeing that the principle of local accountability and the need to provide a relevant skills base are incorporated at the centre of the decision making process “.
14. The importance of Tenby Harbour and the central role it could play in the regeneration of Tenby and the wider community has long been recognised.
15. Community regeneration is addressed in the MPR.
MPR 4.8 : “ A Harbour Board would retain a community focus and is therefore probably a more effective vehicle through which to spark local regeneration and retain community controls. “
16. Tenby Harbour is the heart of Tenby.
No other location in Pembrokeshire, or arguably Wales is so instantly recognisable. Photographs of Tenby harbour are used in Wales’s tourism marketing nationally and internationally.
17. It is critical not just for the harbour itself but the town and the wider area that the inevitable changes that will come with modernisation are handled sensitively by people who have the towns interests at heart and who possess the relevant skills and the local knowledge that will be so valuable to decision making bodies.
LESSONS FROM ILFRACOMBE
18. The local authority invested significant time and money into the commissioning of consultants and consulting far and wide on the options for the future management of the harbour.
19. The Chief Executive wrote to all stakeholder groups and to all the residents of Ilfracombe with a questionnaire prepared by the consultants.
20. Views were sought on modernising the management arrangements to secure a “fit for purpose “Harbour Authority.
92% of responses agreed that the local authority should be replaced by a Harbour Board .
There was also considerable support for the local authority to continue to have a role in the governance of the harbour.
21. It was noted by the consultants that a Harbour Board could be created by internal decisions of the local authority, relatively speedily and at minimal cost.
All other management models would require a Harbour Revision Order which could take a considerable time at significant expense.
22. An Ilfracombe Harbour Board was constituted within a year of the consultant’s report recommending the adoption of Harbour Board status.
23. The consultation exercise also revealed overwhelming support for a Harbour Advisory committee.
HARBOUR ADVISORY COMMITTEE
24.The consultants had recommended that this committee should be formed by the Harbour Users Association. The primary function of this committee would be to seek the views of all stakeholders and liaise with the Harbour Board. |In turn the Harbour Board should take advice from the Harbour Advisory Committee. All interested persons and groups and especially Ilfracombe Town Council should be invited to take part. It should run itself and elect its own chairperson who should report formally to the Board. Whilst it would play an important role the governance of the harbour would remain with the Harbour Board.
25. We recognise therefore that THUA would form this new committee. We see it as having a crucial role to play and it must be open, transparent and accessible.
26. Proper consultation with harbour users and the wider community is absolutely critical. Recent experiences of poor or non-existent consultation have caused considerable upset in the harbour community. Firstly, the local authority review of mooring fees and charges was blighted by poor consultation.
Further a written proposal by Saundersfoot Harbour Commissioners to take over the management of Tenby Harbour was submitted to PCC without any communication with, let alone consultation with Tenby Harbour users.
We recognise the importance of good communications with visitors also. Their own experiences, views, likes and dislikes provide crucial information for planning the development of the harbour.
THE WAY FORWARD
27. PCC should follow Ilfracombe’s example in embarking on a major consultation exercise.
If PCC is satisfied that a Harbour Board represents the right management model then it could proceed without engaging consultants..
If PCC is not so decided then we advocate the involvement of consultants.
28. THUA suggests that a steering group should be formed to oversee the transition of governance arrangements if a new management structure is considered appropriate.
We suggest that it contains representatives from THUA, Tenby Town Council, the two Tenby county councillors, the executive director and the harbour Master.
29. If a Harbour Board is adopted then it should have all the powers and duties of the Harbour Authority to improve, manage and maintain the harbour and have control over its finances. As the Board would be a committee of the Council the usual provisions of scrutiny and call in would apply.
30. The members of the Board must be knowledgeable and experienced in the functions of a Harbour Authority including business development, funding, the marine and marina industries, recreational sailing and other leisure activities, environmental matters, community development and community capacity building and structure and infrastructure redevelopment.
31. The time for action is upon us. We must play our part in safe guarding Tenby Harbour and in ensuring a long term sustainable future of this crucially important asset for the good of the harbour community and the wider area.