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The work of the
Wells Harbour Commissioners 2015



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 2015. All these reports can be found on this website.

Annual Meetings

The Commissioners hold an annual public meeting to report on their work. In 2015 it was held on 19th May 2015. A report of that meeting is on this website. The date of the 2016 meeting is 3rd May 2016 at Wells Community Hospital.

Harbour Staff

There were no staff appointments during 2015. Sallyann Retchless became a full-time employee. There were no staff leavers during 2015.

Harbour Commissioners

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 portís management and development.


Bruce Walls was appointed in May 2015 to replace the vacancy created by Charlie Ward.

Bob Laucht, Adrian Underwood and Duncan Vaughan were appointed effective 1st January 2016.


Charlie Ward resigned as a Commissioner in April 2015 due to work commitments.

Rex Ashcroft resigned as a Commissioner in May 2015 due to necessary lifestyle changes.

Chairman Tony Pannell retired Dec 2015 completing 12 years of service. Wells Harbour Commissioners thank him for all the work and input he has provided during his tenure and wish him well.

New Commissioner Portfolios

Alan Bushell took over as Chairman of the Harbour Users Committee in 2015.

Paula Baldry took over the environmental portfolio in 2015.

Joan Price was elected as new Chair of the Commissioners effective 1st January 2016.

Beach Patrol

The beach patrol operated successfully for the fifth year employing five local young people for the summer season. 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.

Capital Expenditure

2015 completed

  • 46m extension of the visiting pontoons North.
  • Levelled berths at visiting pontoons
  • Completed construction of new boat and buoy shed in Harbour compound
  • New floating facilities for visiting vessels incorporating showers and toilets
  • Flood protection for Harbour Office
  • Flood protection improvements to car park wall
  • Purchase of Dredgemaster and Backhoe survey software
  • Replaced Provider with an Avon Searider RIB
  • Safety railings installed at East End Store
  • Additional perrybuoys installed around Harbour Estate

Planned for 2016

  • Investigate replacement to slipway trolley
  • Potential business opportunity for new Harbour vessel
  • Replacement Harbour Pickup
  • 2nd phase of redesign of car park (far East End, bike racking and leisure seating, motorcycle parking)
  • Channel straightening project
  • Harbour Office Extension project sympathetic to the listed building and surroundings taking into consideration flooding potential
  • Subject to extension, strip out visiting showers upstairs of Harbour Office and creation new boardroom
  • Maritime Trail Interpretation boards
  • Feasibility study into diversifying port activities to include boat repairs and engineering
  • New building for boat repairs subject to feasibility study
  • Slipway repairs
  • Extend Quayside railings
  • Explore possibility for increasing visiting pontoons
  • Consider potential property investment opportunities either by purchase or rent
  • Register the quayside with Land registry
  • Introduction of a scheme to provide an alternative to plastic gillying items using natural materials to reduce waste and dumping of plastic items into the quay
  • MMO maintenance licence renewal

Future expenditure under consideration

  • Resurface quayside and car park
  • Warehouse facility (should demand require)
  • Install sympathetic lighting on the quay to reduce light pollution
  • Increase visiting pontoons
  • Reinstatement of wooden jetty near Shipwrights
  • Explore different methods of disposing of dredged material


The Port introduced a Gilly patrol in 2015 after an approach by volunteer and local lady Sue Riseborough to educate families regarding gilly welfare whilst still enjoying the activity. The gillying (crabbing) from the quayside is a very popular pastime and has been carried out for many generations and brings lots of enjoyment to locals and visitors. There is no way that the Harbour Commissioners wish to see this activity stop or be regulated in any way. Sue now patrols the quay at different times during the summer months to advise and politely educate the visitors on the best methods of catching and handling the gillies.

An initiative to look at an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic gillying items is being investigated as the number of plastic buckets and lines being pulled out of the quay is increasing which is damaging to marine life.

Navigation and Channel

The Port was inspected by Trinity House and passed its annual inspection on buoyage and also passed its annual audit.


Licenced maintenance dredging continued in 2015 which maintains the channel to a depth of 1m low water neap tides for navigational safety of vessels and maintains access to and the depth at the Outer Harbour. These dredging activities ensure the Port remains fit for purpose.

Dams and Creeks

Refurbishment of some of the dams, first erected in the 1700's, 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.

New Vessel

The Provider was sold and replaced with an Avon Searider 7.47m rib of GRP construction with a planing underwater profile. The vessel has a cruising speed of 20knots, max 30 knots. This vessel will be used for fast response at sea, escorting visiting vessels and general duties around the harbour and has been named William-T after William Temple who served as Harbour Master 1881-1908.


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.

Port Safety

Health and safety inspections have been regularly undertaken and all H&S issues have been addressed. The Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC) Safety Management System (SMS) was independently audited in March 2015. Recommendations to combine with the Peninsula SMS were carried out. The annual review currently provided by Peninsula Business Services is appropriate for the harbour office activity but is considered inadequate with regard to its brief comments on SMS marine activities and is considered not fit for purpose and the Peninsula contract will be terminated.

HSE visited the East End Store and following this inspection, railings were installed around the deck at the North of the East End store and in future all paint/hazardous liquids will be stored in a fire proof container and not in the store. Tractor training was provided for four members of staff. It was agreed with HSE that welfare facilities at the East End store was not required as employees spend no longer time at the East End store than other areas of the Harbour estate and the Portís current arrangements are adequate.

Public Relations

WHMT organised the 8th Norfolk Triathlon to raise funds for the charity. The event was held on 20th September 2015. The 2016 event will be held on September 4th 2016.

WHC worked with Wells Lighting Committee to organise and continue the ever popular Wells Christmas Tide event. WHC transported Santa to the quay as 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 the 70th anniversary of VE day on 8th May 2015.

An information board on the History of the Port was installed by WHC near to Frary's stall.

After an approach for help In July 2015, Wells Harbour Commissioners have donated a 36' steel walkway and labour free of charge for a new access to the NCI Wells Coastwatch station. The existing wooden steps were in disrepair, unsafe and suffering from subsidence. Quotes to replace the steps with a rear access were in the region of 㾸,000 outside the financial capacity of the station to raise. In Oct 2015, Harbour Master Robert Smith and harbour staff transported the walkway to the site, levelled the land, placed it in position and completed the task by installing fencing and steps made from sleepers. We hope the walkway provides NCI Wells Coastwatch with a much improved access so they may continue to serve the community for the future.

The Port sponsored the Pirate Festival in 2015.

The Port made the truck available for Wells Primary School carnival float.

The Port was the location for several filming activities in 2015.

In Sept 2015, Harbour Master Robert Smith attended the Blue New Deal initiative in London. The Blue New Deal aims to deliver stronger economies for UK coastal communities, supporting more and better jobs through a healthier marine and coastal environment by innovative and sustainable approaches. The Blue New Deal will bring together a range of economic sectors, organisations and individuals committed to the Blue New Deal vision, to generate ideas and develop an action plan that will help turn this vision into a reality.

The Commissioners have granted permission for the Executive, via the Wells Harbour Maritime Trust, to plan and start an educational programme with local schools in 2016 with the aim of furthering the education of young people in the area on local marine life and the coastal habitat of North Norfolk and environmental impacts of modern day living.

Subject to funding, a Harbour Day is planned for 2017.

Harbour Users Advisory Committee (HUAC)

Reports of the meetings of the HUAC can be found on this 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.

Outer Harbour

Following completion of the Sheringham Shoal, 3-5 vessels worked from the Outer Harbour supporting O&M activity at the wind farm in 2015. 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.

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 this website to notify harbour users of where the dredger is working on a weekly basis.

Harbour Office Extension

A project started in 2015 to look at extending the Harbour Office at first floor level to protect the Office against future potential flooding. The project would reinstate the downstairs of the building to a store or exhibition space allowing flood water to enter and exit. At the time of writing the project is still in the design phase.


The Port of Wells was re-categorised to an A&B Port effective 1st October 2015. Braemer Howells have been contracted as the Tier 2 responder. Hydrosphere contracted the Port of Wells for emergency call outs for maintenance and recovery of the temporary buoys to be sited around the cables during works on the Dudgeon.

WHC received £30k grant 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 for NNR is found at

Harbour Website

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.

Facebook and Twitter

The Port 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.


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.

Coastal Communities Team

Harbour Administrator, Louise De Lisle, represents WHC on the Coastal Communities team in Wells set up with an initial grant to develop an economic plan. The team is looking at two ideas, one providing affordable camping in the town and the other at developing some disused industrial units into a space for small businesses and young people to access.

Staff Appraisals and Training

WHC have undertaken regular appraisals of staff during the year. Some staff have attended training courses:

  • Robert Smith completed a People and Team Management Course
  • Robert Smith and Louise De Lisle completed the MCA 4p Executive Commander Oil Spill Course
  • Mick Frary and Simon Blakeley completed the MCA 2P Oil Spill Response course
  • Mick Frary and Fred Whitaker completed the Beachmaster course
  • Robert Smith completed the Petans STCW Basic Safety Training Week
  • Mick Frary, Simon Blakeley, Fred Whitaker and Louise De Lisle completed the Petan PST course
  • Bob Hull, Louise De Lisle and Sallyann Retchless completed the RYA Powerboat II course
  • Graham Riseborough completed his Driver CPC Periodic Training
  • All Harbour staff attended a fire awareness course
  • Simon Blakeley, Mick Frary, Fred Whitaker and Graham Riseborough completed tractor driver and handling training
  • Seven members of staff attended a course on Health & Safety
  • Simon Blakeley, Mick Frary, Louise De Lisle, Fred Whitaker, Sallyann Retchless and Graham Riseborough completed renewal of their First Aid certificates
  • Simon Blakeley passed PAT testing certification

Boat store

The boat storage and lift out facility at the East End continues to be a great asset to the Port and to stakeholders and was at full capacity in the Winter season 2015.

The new boat and buoy shed in the compound has proved invaluable for storage purposes.

A business plan was commenced in 2015 to look at feasibility of the Port extending its activities to include the provision of marine repairs and engineering.

Slipway Trolley

During 2015, after investigating the possibility of replacing the slipway trolley with a grid iron, it was decided that a suitable site for a grid iron could not be found. The Commissioners will investigate options for replacing the slipway trolley in 2016.

Car Park

The trial of the redesign of part of the area of the car park for fishermen parking has been proved very successful with all fishermen complying and has been made permanent.

WHC are also looking to redesign the main car park area in 2016 to improve the flow of traffic entering and exiting the car park. This will lead to a reduction in 1 parking bay but will create more space for traffic movement. A decision was made to remove the motorcycle parking at the pinch point of the car park for safety reasons where pedestrians walk and gillying activities occur. At the time of writing, the Commissioners are looking at an alternative site for motorcycles. Free motorcycle parking is permitted at Stearmans Yard, which is rarely used at present and a provision for motorcycle parking will be included in the new Holkham car park under construction.


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. To enable the vessel to be winched away from the wall and hold her in place away from the quay in storms, 2 ships anchors were purchased and positioned North West and North East, buried with 32m chain to the seabed with ropes off the starboard side to the anchors.

Port Charges

There was a small increase to the majority of 2016 Port charges. In order to promote the Outer Harbour to other commercial operators, the decision was taken not to increase berthing fees for the Outer Harbour.

Visiting vessels

Visiting vessels totalled 327 in 2015, up 39 from 2014. Average nights stayed were comparable to 2014 at 4 nights.

Wells Harbour Maritime Trust (WHMT)

Students from three schools, Little Snoring Primary, Wells Primary and Walsingham Community Primary took part in Fun on the Water days in 2015.

In 2015 WHMT funded young people in group sailing courses from Langham School and five individuals were given funds to complete sailing courses at Brancaster Sailing Club. WHMT collaborated with Wells Sailing Club to provide students from Alderman Peel School sailing opportunities in the absence of a Sailing School in Wells./

The Trust organised the North Norfolk Triathlon for the first time which proved to be a huge success raising money for the Trust.

WHMT would like to thank all supporters of the Trust for their kind donations during the course of the year.

Harbour launch refitted
New Coastwatch walkway
Kari Hege on the pontoons
Full house at the quay
Beach Patrol
Frank T out at the Sheringham Shoal windfarm