to Isle of Wight History Centre Archive of Monthly News Items
As previously featured in the History Centre

April 2017


April 2017
THE FUTURE OF NEWPORT HARBOUR
Restrictions on the usage and development within harbours are governed by a number of Parliamentary Acts, dating from the 19th century. The council's draft proposal to apply for a Harbour Revision Order (HRO) is designed to give them new powers to exercise complete control over developments in Newport Harbour. Many feel they might use these powers to encourage a property complex that will change the historical nature of the harbour and destroy its present environment.
Newport Harbour
  Over many decades, the council have previously sought to overcome the legal restrictions surrounding the use of the harbour and its properties. The main restriction has been a limitation whereby harbour properties cannot be leased to third parties for terms longer than three years. The council have unlawfully exceeded this limitation in the past and this has subsequently put the council and their tenants in difficult situations.
  There has also been controversy as to whether they had the right to dispose of harbour property. The disposal of the Jubilee Stores and development of the Premier Inn were progressed without full consideration of the legal implications The council are now retrospectively claiming they had rights over harbour property once it no longer had pertinent harbour use. They seek to formally establish this principle in Article 15 of their proposed HRO, which gives them the power to " . . . dispose of, lease or grant the use or occupation of, or any right or interest in or over, any land, works, buildings, machinery, equipment or other property forming part of the harbour premises . . ."
  HROs are not uncommon. The government's Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will grant a local authority powers to vary the existing legislation covering a particular harbour if it is assessed as justifiable. The council have been in pre-application talks with the MMO and have carried out an informal public consultation. The HRO proposal is wide ranging and detailed but naturally makes no reference to the intended plans that might lay behind it. There can be little doubt the council intend to use the harbour as part of its plan to promote a regeneration of business activity. The fear is that unsympathetic development would result in the east side of the quay losing its place as a tranquil, historical environment, wherein its daily use retains the concept of a functioning harbour. At some stage there will have to be a formal consultation in which the council's presentation should address public concerns. A major public protest could result in a Public Inquiry.
   The Newport Harbour Action Group (NHAG) has been monitoring the council's harbour politics since 2008 and have been responsible for highlighting the past abuse of powers. Their aim is to see a traditional harbour environment maintained. They are currently challenging the HRO on a number of fronts, not least the council's interpretation of the area that constitutes the harbour estate. They are also claiming the HRO should be linked to a clearly defined Harbour Conservation Area that would be protected from unsuitable development. This might in include tourist centre showing the history of the harbour. NHAG are currently in a dialogue with councillors on these issues, although it would seem the councillors now wish to hold the matter in abeyance until after the May elections.