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Annual Report of Wells Harbour Commissioners 2003

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There are currently eight commissioners. Three of these will stand down this year and, in line with the Trust Port Review document and the Commissioners' Code of Practice vacancies will be advertised. However, retiring Commissioners are able to re-apply for a further two three-year terms. The current chairman is Mr Jim Perowne who has been a commissioner for eight years and has just completed his first year as chairman.

A further three Commissioners will be attending the training seminar this year for Trust Port Board Members usually held at Harwich and arranged by the DTLR.

In January of last year a presentation evening was held to mark the retirement of eight long serving Commissioners. Each was presented with a gift as a thank you for their time, effort and expertise given to Wells Harbour over the years. Collectively, they had served a total of 197 years.

Wells Harbour currently has six employees; the Chief Executive, the Harbour Master and Assistant Harbour Master, the Chief Executive's Assistants and the Car Park Attendant.

The Leisure Users Advisory Committee continues to meet twice a year, just before the season starts and again at the end of the season. Its existence has proved worthwhile in that it encourages all harbour user groups to liase, discuss problems that may arise and find solutions to them. Representatives from the RNLI, Coastguards, Sailing Club, Ski Club, Windsurfers and Wildfowlers, Cruising Association, small boat users and Holkham Estate attend. A Fisherman's Advisory Committee works on the same lines and helps promote a good working relationship.

The Annual Public Harbour Users meeting this year will be held on Friday 4 April at 7pm at Wells Sailing Club. All harbour users and stakeholders are welcome to attend.

The Commissioners' commitment to planning ahead and keeping pace with changing needs has seen further improvements to the harbour this past year. The project to upgrade navigation lights and buoys inbound from No. 10 has been completed. Due to its success, a further project is proposed for this year to improve lights in the outer harbour.

The East End boat store is now used to full capacity. The Commissioners have recently purchased a new boat hoist and tractor which will enable the movement of vessels in and out of the store much more efficiently and has virtually done away with crane-in and crane-out days. The Commissioners are looking at the possibility of improving this facility further.

The harbour pontoon purchased this year was a tremendous success. The Commissioners hope to purchase possibly another two in the coming year.

In August of last year the MV Calypso (a 68' converted wooden air sea rescue launch) came into Wells and sank in the harbour by the quay wall. The owners had no money and no insurance. A salvage operation to remove the vessel from the harbour to the East End has cost the Commissioners considerably. It is hoped to dispose of the vessel as soon as possible mindful of the environmental problems that could occur.

The unfortunate grounding of the Dutch barge Albatros in April caused much activity in the harbour. The vessel was blown onto the marsh in unfavourable weather and remained there for almost a month. Thankfully a Dutch salvage company managed to get her afloat.

The Wells Harbour Port Safety Code is now in place (another requirement of the DLTR). Health and safety becomes an ever increasing pressure as the Commissioners are required to comply with many new rules and regulations.

It is because of this that the Commissioners regrettably could not allow the funfair on the quay last year. Without a Certificate of Exemption from the Heath and Safety Executive, the Commissioners could have been individually and personally liable. There is also the problem of a providing a right of way and sufficient safe access over and through the quay for both harbour users and emergency vehicles. The Commissioners' obligations to comply with the Health and Safety legislation under the Port Safety Code have become more and more onerous.

The Harbour Project progresses and it is hoped that work will begin in the Spring. The museum has now closed and vacated the building in preparation.

The building is in very bad condition and deteriorating all the time. The building will be repaired and refurbished and a wall built around it to protect it from further flood damage. The vacated area of the building to the North of the Harbour Office will provide shower and laundry facilities for visiting yachts. An upstairs meeting room and increased office space are also included.

With this work being carried out there will be considerable disruption on the quay during peak season and it has therefore very regrettably been decided not to hold Harbour Day this year but to re-launch it in 2004 to celebrate completion of the project.

The museum will be housed in a new building across the road on the site of the public toilets, built in keeping with the old granary buildings known as the Pop Inn. This centre will explore not only the local maritime history but the culture and the history of the salt-marsh coast and will incorporate the development of a 'heritage harbour' encouraging historically significant vessels to berth at Wells on a permanent basis.

Despite many rumours the Commissioners will be retaining the car park on the quay for the foreseeable future. It is the car park income which allows the harbour to make these improvements and maintain the channel and navigation.

The harbour was once again lucky to have the help of Bircham Newton Training Centre. Their students helped to enlarge the slipway and tidy the East End bank and, in conjunction with Norfolk Coastal Path, provided disabled access to the bank. We have also been able to have the assistance of the probation lads for another year carrying out their community service and helping to clean and tidy the area.

In the coming year it is the aim of the Commissioners to provide further improved navigation aids and berthing facilities and hopefully we will have a less eventful year than the last.

Lorraine Marshall
Chief Executive and Clerk to the Commissioners

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