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The work of the
Wells Harbour Commissioners 2009

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Introduction

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The work of the Wells Harbour Commissioners (WHC) is regulated by central government and full details of the appointments and management structure can be found in the Government legislation Modernising Trust Ports - A Guide to Good Governance, last update 2009 (see Department for Transport website). Every effort is made by the WHC to conform to the governance as set out by the Government.

The Commissioners hold an annual public meeting to report on their work, which took place on 17 April 2009. The following information was distilled from the minutes of the bimonthly meetings of the commissioners in 2009.

It should be noted, perhaps to disabuse one of the myths about the Commissioners' work, that all Commissioners are volunteers and receive no payment for their work. The revenue from the services offered by the port is used entirely to finance the port's management and development.

Administration

Fixed Assets Register

A new register was drawn up in 2009.

Floating Dock

A proposal from an outside body to have a floating dock in the harbour was considered but the Commissioners did not feel it appropriate to the harbour's character.

Harbour Brochure

It had been agreed that the 2009 Harbour Brochure should be published by the WHC and not by a commercial company as in the past. The 'new look' 2009 brochure met with many favourable comments.

Harbour Day

It was agreed that Harbour Day would not be held in 2009 due to the Harbour Master's considerable other commitments and that the Carnival Committee could hold a Fun Quay Day in its place. The holding of Harbour Day would be re-considered for 2010. The Commissioners made the Quay available by closing all or part of the car park for several community events including the Lifeboat Service and Wells Christmas Tide, at no charge.

Harbour Launch

The new harbour launch, Provider, was coded and painted. This new launch has enabled safer working down to and beyond the bar - unlike most other ports the harbour staff often go out to escort in visiting vessels, in all weathers and at all times of day and night.

Harbour Website

A new website has been commissioned and will be operative early in 2010. It will have a number of new features including a report on each of the WHC meetings to increase transparency.

Outboard Covers

During the year the germ of an idea by the Harbour Master and a Commissioner came to fruition in the form of an outboard security cover and the idea has spread well beyond Norfolk.

The Harbour Master and the Wells Police Safer Neighbourhood Team worked together with Nelson County Marine Covers to design and produce a system which aimed to reduce the chances of outboard motors being stolen from boats.

Quay Facilities

The WHC responsibilities are many and a key one is to maintain Wells harbour as a working port, a WHC responsibility since 1663. This is why through the year the WHC have been exercised about the amount of quay space taken up by the Albatros, which, on occasions, prevents the Harbour Master from accommodating working boats.

The Commissioners have been aware of the desire by a number of the town's residents and many of its visitors for the Albatros to remain in its present position, but, as yet, no one has come to the Commissioners with a solution to the problem. After consideration and listening to the views expressed by the public, the Commissioners decided to delay the movement of the Albatros pending an analysis of working boat usage of the quay over the next 18 months. When the analysis of the loss of working boat quay space is considered at the end of 2010, if it is clear that significant loss of quay space has been confirmed by the analysis, the Commissioners will consult again on the future of the Albatros and look forward to listening to ideas from the citizens of the town as to how the issue is to be resolved.

Staff Appraisals and Training

The WHC have undertaken regular appraisals of staff during the year.

The Harbour Master attended the five-day Harbour Masters' Training Course in June.

Waste Disposal

As a matter of information and, at the same time, a request for some support from the town, the harbour waste bins now cost the WHC finances £200 per week to empty in the season from April to September. These bins are designated for use by the visiting boat owners and by the car park users. By no stretch of the imagination can this amount of use stem from these two categories of users. Various suggestions have been made about how to alleviate this problem (including not providing bins at all) but the WHC are committed to providing this service for car park and harbour users. It would be appreciated by the WHC if all those who benefit from the visitors to the quay and the harbour would either provide additional waste bins or contribute to what is becoming an unacceptable financial burden on harbour finances.

West End Car Park

At the start of the discussions about the proposed car park north of Freeman Street the WHC were invited to hold a 'watching brief' as car parking was a WHC interest. At this time there is nothing further to report on this development.

Capital Expenditure

2009 completed

  • New harbour launch
  • New harbour railings
  • New number one buoy
  • Contribution to the Fish Handling Facility

Future expenditure committed or under consideration

  • Appointment of Harbour Administrator
  • Improvement of East End facilities
  • Boat travel hoist
  • Windfarm pontoons
  • Further contribution to the Fish Handling Facility
  • Additional shower facilities for visiting boats
  • Diesel bowser
  • Re-design of harbour website
  • Office improvement
  • Quad bike

Commissioners

Andy Frary and Campbell MacCallum were appointed Commissioners at the start of 2009. Charlie Ward stood down as a Commissioner in May 2009. Godfrey Sayers finished his term as a Commissioner in December 2009.

Environment and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

The WHC considered the management plan for the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and made appropriate responses to the plan which has now been adopted.

One of the WHC members chaired meetings of the Coastal Harbours Forum and kept Commissioners informed about the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), in particular the proposals for the realignment of the East Bank. At the end of 2009 it was agreed by the members of the Client Steering Group of the SMP that the proposals for the realignment of the East Bank would not go ahead and be recategorised as HTL (hold the line) for all three of the next epochs (100 years in total).

Fish Handling Facility

Throughout the year progress on this facility was discussed in detail at all WHC meetings and the management of the project was overseen by a Commissioner. The Facility was officially opened on Friday 11 December. See separate article on page 42

Navigation and Channel

The new Number One buoy completed its trial successfully and is now a permanent feature. The four beacons between the Harbour training wall and Walker's jetty along the edge of the marsh have been replaced with four new, more visible, buoys. Trinity House carried out its annual inspection of the harbour buoys in July and found them all to be in good and efficient order.

Dams and Creeks

Restoration of some of the dams, first built 250 years ago, has been undertaken in the marshes with the full support of Natural England. Little Fleet has now been completed and this has had a good effect on the tidal flow on the ebb.

Port Safety

Health and safety inspections are undertaken monthly. The yellow and white lines in the quay car park were re-painted during the year. New safety railings were erected.

Wells Harbour Maritime Trust

The WHC are working on the development of a charitable trust to benefit young pupils of secondary age in the area. Full details will be published when charitable status has been granted.

Windfarm Development

Throughout the year progress on this development was discussed in detail at all WHC meetings.

The WHC held a Business and General Public Information Day on 23 April which was well attended. Information boards about the project were erected at the Harbour Office and at the north end of Beach Road. The Harbour Master has been very involved with the project in liaising with the development companies, working with the national agencies in ensuring all the necessary licences were obtained and engaging in correspondence and discussion with local interested parties.

The Government's Marine and Fisheries Agency (MFA) agreed to the WHC proposal to dredge some stretches of the outer channel to one metre depth in order to increase the time boats can safely access Wells Harbour. The permission, under the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007 (22), also allowed for the construction of pontoons and a jetty at Buxton's Bight. This will be used by small and medium sized boats servicing the Sheringham Shoal and possibly other windfarms being built off North Norfolk.

To obtain the 'consent' WHC submitted a detailed 266 page Environmental Statement on the proposed methods of working and measures to avoid environmental damage, which was open for public consultation for 42 days during summer 2009. The MFA reviewed this and comments received from more than twenty individuals and organisations including Natural England, the North Norfolk Coast Partnership and English Heritage and concluded that "the project would not adversely affect the nature conservation or landscape quality of the local area". MFA laid down over 40 conditions to be met in the operation of the barge and digger used to create the deeper channel, and in setting up the pontoons.

The dredger Kari Hege was officially named at a ceremony on 15 October and the work on dredging started later that month. This is planned to continue until April 2010, ending before the sensitive period when the rare birds known as Little Terns, whose colony lies to the East, start seeking nest sites.

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The new harbour launch
New outboard covers to deter theft
Kari Hege Launch Ceremony
The new outer jetty January 2010