The work of the
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). The WHC aim to conform to the governance as set out by the government.
The following information was distilled from the reports of the bi-monthly meetings of the Commissioners in 2014. All these reports can be found on this website.
It should be noted, 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.
The Commissioners hold an annual public meeting to report on their work. A report of the 2014 meeting is on this website. The 2015 meeting will be held on 19 May 2015 at Alderman Peel High School.
Fred Whitaker was appointed as a Deputy Harbour Master during the year to replace a position that was made vacant at the end of December 2013.
Alan Bushell was appointed in April 2014 at a special meeting. He replaced the vacancy created by Pat Weston.
Mel Catton and Robert Ellis have been appointed from 1st January 2015. They replace the vacancies created by the retirement of Chris Rose and Campbell MacCallum.
Rhiannon Boyd-Stevenson left WHC at the end of 2014.
Pat Weston resigned as a Commissioner in February 2014 due to work commitments.
Chris Rose retired as a Commissioner after serving three full terms and Campbell MacCallum retired after serving two full terms, both at the end December 2014. Wells Harbour Commissioners offer their sincere gratitude for all the time they have given during their tenures.
Andy Frary has agreed to continue for a third term of office. The board agreed that his knowledge of the fishing industry and navigation and his contacts in the fishing community are an asset to the board.
Paula Baldry and Charlie Ward completed the third year of their first term. Both agreed to continue for a second term.
New Commissioner Portfolios
Alan Bushell will take over as Chairman of the Harbour Users Committee in 2015.
Rex Ashcroft will take over the environmental portfolio in 2015.
The beach patrol operated successfully for the fourth year employing five local young people, two returning from 2013. The patrol advises the public regarding safety matters, swimming, keeping off the berms & and buoys and assists with the public cut off by the tide. Following the introduction of RNLI lifeguards on the beach in 2014, the Commissioners evaluated the need for the Beach Patrol at the end of 2014 and decided that the patrol still has a part to play and will continue in 2015. The patrol provides employment for young people during the Summer season and WHC have received a letter of support from the NCI Coastwatch station at Wells following concerns that the patrol would be discontinued.
Planned for 2015
Future expenditure under consideration
Environment and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
WHC issued a Port Marine Environment and Sustainability Policy in June 2014. This is available for download from the website.
The Commissioners held discussions with the Environment Agency (EA) and local Councillors to determine the feasibility of utilising land east of Wells as an overflow flood defence, however the indicative cost was £3million and the Partnership Funding Calculator yielded a result of around 6% meaning only approximately £160K of government funds would be forthcoming for such a scheme, clearly meaning significant private contributions would be required and therefore the project was considered cost prohibitive and not taken forward.
The EA considered that flooding in Wells is only expected to be a 1 in 500 year event.
Navigation and Channel
The Port was inspected by Trinity House and passed its annual inspection on buoyage and also passed its annual audit.
The MMO confirmed no further action was to be taken on the 4 alleged breaches of the Marine Licence.
The monitoring plan has been agreed by the MMO and incorporated into a variation of the licence.
Dams and Creeks
Refurbishment of some of the dams, first erected in the 1700s, continued. These works have proven to be very beneficial in the tidal flow arriving approximately 15-20 mins earlier at the quayside on the flood and a lot greater ebb remaining in the quayside at low water. It has also helped with the scouring effect on the channel. By carrying out these works over the last couple of years it has replenished and protected the marsh and also in some areas has created new marsh.
The second-hand hopper barge purchased in the latter part of 2013 was brought up to standard during 2014. The vessel is used to assist in dredging and maintenance operations and was named Tender-S in honour of Frank (Tender) Smith who was one of the longest serving Harbour Masters at the Port of Wells.
Harbour Staff continue to maintain the Fore & Aft/swinging moorings within the Harbour by lifting and checking the sinkers and chains and reorganising and realigning the moorings.
Health and safety inspections have been regularly undertaken and all H&S issues have been addressed.
A defibrillator was purchased during the year which is based at the Harbour Office and is available to the general public if required.
WHC donated and laid two buoys for Burnham Overy Trust to assist with marking of the channel into Burnham Overy. Burnham Overy Trust are responsible for on-going maintenance.
WHC decided that although the book "A Taste of Wells" had sold out and was a great success, there would be no further reprint. The book generated over £3,800 for the WHMT since production.
The Port now has a Facebook page which can be accessed via the website. This is a public page and stakeholders do not need to have an account to view the page. Also from the website stakeholders can follow the Harbour Master on Twitter.
Following the announcement from the organisers of the North Norfolk Triathlon that the event would be discontinued, WHC took the decision to organise future events through the WHMT, which could raise funds for the charity. The event will be held on 20th September 2015.
The Carnival committee announced that it would no longer be organising Christmas Tide after 2014. WHC will continue to organise the transportation of Santa to the quay as we have done in previous years.
During the year, the Harbour Master gave up his free time to present and talk to many organisations, donating any fees received to the Wells Harbour Maritime Trust.
WHC lit the beacon for Pirate Festival.
Harbour Users Advisory Committee (HUAC)
Reports of the meetings of the HUAC can be found on the Harbour Website. The reports confirm that the interests represented on HUAC are pleased with the way in which the Harbour Master and his team respond to the different requirements of each of these interests.
The Wells & District Inshore Fishermen's Association expressed their thanks to Wells Harbour Commissioners for allowing the fishermen to make use of the Outer Harbour to secure their fishing vessels during the unprecedented high tides in December 2013. The Outer Harbour facility is a great benefit to the fishermen and the Commissioners have agreed that any future requests for fishing vessels to lay in the Outer Harbour for operational safety reasons will be supported, where feasible, subject to Harbour Master's approval.
Following completion of the Sheringham Shoal, 3-7 vessels worked from the Outer Harbour supporting O&M activity at the wind farm in 2014. Other survey vessels for the Race Bank have used the Outer Harbour also. All the vessels call Wells Harbour on VHF channel 12 before departure and on arrival at the leading buoy to gain clearance for transit.
WHC were consulted and responded to the RNLI regarding the proposed rebuilding of the RNLI lifeboat House at Wells at a new proposed location at the Outer Harbour. WHC had concerns that the plan showed the building running North/South as opposed to West/East. A North/South position could cause concerns as the slipway would run into the Outer Harbour. In addition there was a concern that if the current lifeboat house was removed it could open up a very vulnerable area of beach in north and north-easterly winds as the Outer Harbour was designed and built with the boathouse in its present location with the groynes and revetment system in place and maintained. Also to protect against erosion WHC would require the RNLI to agree to a stipulation that after launching, the lifeboat should proceed at low speed from the Outer Harbour until it was in the main channel. WHC agrees there are many benefits to the RNLI with the new location with improved access, better protection from the elements and easier access for the public. The RNLI responded stating it is their intention to keep the building well clear of the Outer Harbour and align it West/East rather than North/South and were happy, with the agreement of Holkham Estate, to leave in place any structures that are considered to contribute to the stability of the spit and that it would probably be better in the long term interests of maintaining the Outer Harbour for the Environment Agency to take over responsibility for the revetment and groynes currently owned and maintained by the RNLI. Further consultation will take place if the decision is taken to proceed with the relocation. The Wells Harbour Maritime Trust (WHMT) has expressed an interest in the current lifeboat house if the scheme goes ahead.
The WHC responsibilities are many and a key one is to maintain Wells harbour as a working port, a WHC responsibility since 1663. The executive, with approval from the Commissioners, continue to promote the Port of Wells and the Outer Harbour to other wind farm developers in the region.
The Port dredger Kari Hege works approximately 5 days per week, weather permitting, from number 13 buoy out to the entrance maintaining the channel. Dredging notices are placed on the website to notify harbour users of where the dredger is working on a weekly basis.
An insurance claim covered the damage caused to the Harbour Office following the tidal surge in December 2013. The office remained open during reinstatement works and the downstairs office was completed at the end of March 2014. Ways to improve the flood defence around the Harbour Office were considered, but increasing the height of the wall was cost prohibitive. A portable flood protection system is being investigated for the Harbour Office.
WHC received a £15k grant from the Small Ports Recovery Fund for berm repairs at the Outer Harbour and to Inner Harbour pontoons. A grant was also approved from the Norfolk Coastal Fund to repair and improve the small wall which acts as a flood barrier around the car park.
North Norfolk Renewables (NNR)
The Harbour Master continues to actively participate in meetings of the North Norfolk Renewables alliance group to promote and encourage the renewable industry and ancillary business opportunities in North Norfolk. The website is at www.northnorfolkrenewables.org.
WHC supported the Egmere Local Development Order which has been adopted following its endorsement at an NNDC full council meeting on 21st May 2014. This will form the basis of planning policy for the area of land covered by the order until August 2019. It is hoped that as offshore wind developments are moved forward off the North Norfolk coast over the next few years there will be interest for sites and premises by wind operators and Egmere will offer a simplified planning regime.
The website is regularly updated with news, navigation updates, reports of the meetings of the Harbour Commissioners and views of the public in the Visitors' Book. The website has proven to be very popular worldwide as we can see from the comments on our visitors page and now incorporates links to Facebook and Twitter.
Harbour Master, Robert Smith, represents small Ports in the East Coast region on the council of the UKHMA.
The Commissioners are members of the BPA and Harbour Master, Robert Smith, attended the AGM meeting in London during April 2014 and attended the Regional Ports Group meeting in September 2014.
Staff Appraisals and Training
WHC have undertaken regular appraisals of staff during the year. Some staff have attended training courses:
Fred Whitaker passed his RYA Powerboat II course
Simon Blakeley and Chas Major completed a Slinger banksman signaller course
Robert Smith and Tony Ford completed the IMDG Code course on dangerous and hazardous goods.
The boat storage and lift out facility at the East End continues to be a great asset to the Port and to stakeholders. It is at full capacity in the Winter season 2014.
The fencing has been realigned to create more internal space and planning permission was granted in October 2014 to erect a new boat and buoy shed in the compound for storage purposes. This was completed in November 2014.
A project is underway to replace the slipway trolley with a grid iron at the Outer Harbour to accommodate dimensions of the larger vessels in the Port. This will benefit all harbour users.
Some parking bays were removed to incorporate an area to allow fishermen to park their trucks opposite their vessels. A loss in car park revenue is estimated at £7K pa. So far the trial has been very successful with all fishermen complying. WHC are looking at options at the east end of the car park to incorporate potentially four bays for commercial use.
The Albatros at present continues to be berthed at the main quay. As an historic ship operating as a licensed bar, cafe and bed-and-breakfast, the ship is regularly monitored by the Harbour Commissioners on the disposing of waste and is also regulated by NNDC environmental health. The vessel currently takes up space on the quayside which prevents the Harbour Master from accommodating working boats. The future mooring position of the vessel will continue to be evaluated by the Commissioners should a more suitable mooring site become available.
The majority of 2015 Port charges were increased in line with the Retail Price Index. In order to promote the Outer Harbour to other commercial operators, the decision was taken not to increase berthing fees for the Outer Harbour. WHC introduced charges to store trailers in 2014 when not in use.
It is regretful that Oceanus closed its doors in 2014 and Wells no longer has a Sailing School. WHC are keen for a school to be re-established in the Town and are 100% behind an independent school being run in Wells.
Visiting vessels totalled 286 in 2014. which although down on 2013, which was an exceptional year, still exceeded expectations.