The Committee received an update report in response to a petition submitted to Council on the 25th January, 2023, by the Friends of Burry Port Marina (FBPM), expressing their dissatisfaction with the operation and condition of Burry Port Harbour, prior to the report being considered by Cabinet in June. The harbour is operated on a 150 year lease by Burry Port Marine Limited (BPML).
The report unequivocally stated that the County Council shared the stated aim of FBPM in wanting a safe, functioning, attractive facility that is of genuine benefit for both the harbour users and the whole community.
The report specifically referenced issues and concerns flagged by the FBPM including:
- An acknowledgement that the lack of dredging in the harbour over recent years had led to a build-up of silt and mud hindering its operation and access and egress for vessels in the harbour. The report notes that a documented mixed-methodology dredging plan (to include regular sluicing and water injected dredging) had been submitted by BPML and posted on their website. However, a verbal update by the Head of Leisure, confirmed that timebound actions within this plan were slipping and were not currently being met.
- Confirmation that CCC, as landlord, had formally written to BPML to put them on notice of breaches against the terms of the lease, and specifically with regards to their obligation to dredge the Harbour to a depth of no less than 1.0 metre at impound level.
- That Council officers regularly met with the Managing Director of the Marine Group where operational concerns had and were continued to be raised as well as with local members and the Chair of the Friends of Burry Port Marina to regularly apprise on the situation at the harbour.
The report also referenced:
- The accumulation of debt to the Council in respect of rates, rental and other charges (and the Council’s position in terms of recovery), set against, the challenging financial environment highlighted by BPML, along with the impact of Covid, and the financial and cost of living crises on the wider economy
Several references had been made by a local member, Cllr John James, and the wider Committee to the declining condition of the harbour over the previous 5 years, since the award of the Lease by the Council to the Marine Group, and to broken pledges and breaches of lease conditions made by the company over that time. Those, together with other concerns included:
- the lack of dredging in the harbour to the point where it now seriously affected harbour operations for boat users,
- lack of repair and maintenance including the harbour gates which had been inoperative for the past few months with oil leaking into the water.
- pontoons breaking free in the harbour and floating into the bay.
- While the harbour had 450 berths, only 49 were occupied.
- The company’s financial position
- The current condition of the harbour could deter any interest by potential future operators.
Concerns were also expressed in relation to a list of other improvements around the harbour not progressing, including an upgrade of the commercial pontoons, a re-commencement of work to the old RNLI building into a new Harbour Masters’ Office and improved changing and showering facilities for harbour users.
In view of the above, the Committee expressed serious concerns for the future viability of the harbour to the point where unless conditions were to improve in the near future, the Council should consider options available in respect of potentially terminating the lease agreement and finding an alternative operator.
Both the Head of Leisure Services and the Head of Regeneration confirmed that the Council recognised the ongoing difficulties at the Harbour and that regular discussion was ongoing with the operator, the Director of Resources, local members, the Chair of the FBML, and legal services to try and resolve the current unsatisfactory position, It was also stated that due legal process had to be followed given the status of the long-term lease agreement and that unfortunately, such matters would inevitably take time to fully address and resolve. Members were re-assured that matters would continue to be progressed as quickly as possible and were reminded that the Council had initiated a legal process to ensure its assets were safeguarded whilst all future options were considered.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the Committee’s concerns at the current situation at Burry Port Harbour be conveyed to the Cabinet and the Cabinet be requested to:
1. Undertake a site visit to Burry Port Harbour at low tide,
2. Consider terminating the lease agreement with Burry Port Marine Ltd if no improvements had been achieved by the end of the current legal process.