EAST Riding Council has threatened to use ‘compulsory powers’ to acquire and develop land on Bridlington Harbour as part of its regeneration plans for the town.
The warning could lead to another battle between the authority and Bridlington Harbour Commissioners.
But Chris Wright, Harbour Master and chief executive of the Harbour Commissioners, vowed to fight, saying: “The council can do their worst, but we will try our best.”
The dispute between the two bodies centres around operational land at the Harbour Top being used for commercial and residential development – part of the council’s flagship shopping district, Burlington Parade, in the proposed Area Action Plan (AAP).
Council planners say that development is integral to Bridlington’s regeneration plans and that adequate land will be provided elsewhere for the Harbour Commissioners to continue to operate
But the Harbour Commissioners are worried about the vagueness of plans, how building work will be phased, the effect on the Harbour’s continued operation
and a host of other technical details.
Eleven years ago the two authorities locked horns during the year-long Marina public inquiry after similar moves by the council to use compulsory powers to acquire Trust Port land.
Chris Wright continued: “The council tried using compulsory powers eleven years ago. They wanted a 500 berth marina last time and we said it was too big, and eventually the inspector threw out the plans.
“If the council want to go down that road they can.
“We have our concerns about the plans and we have been trying to get assurances – mentioning compulsory powers could be their way of trying to speed the process up.”
The council’s position was set out in a letter to Inspector Sian Worden, who chaired a public hearing in December on the council’s Area Action Plan – a response to late evidence submitted to the hearing by the Commissioners.
At the time, the Inspector allowed the Commissioners late evidence, which outlined their thoughts about the Jacobs report – a draft business plan for Bridlington Harbour – providing the council could make further comments.
In its first response, East Riding Council set out the timeline of events relating to the harbour since the 2001 Marina inquiry, which had been another source of disagreement between themselves and the Commissioners, as well as maintaining that dialogue to find an agreement would continue as land at the Harbour Top is essential for Bridlington’s regeneration.
After further disagreement from the Commissioners (BHC), the council states in a second response: “While it would be preferable for there to be agreement with the BHC over the harbour/marina elements of the AAP, it would be unwise to allow their lack of willingness to agree to stand in the way of the wider public interest.
“The fact that BHC may not agree cannot be a suitable reason for frustrating the public interest and if necessary, and providing the council can be satisfied that the preservation of the BHC’s interests can be properly met, this could be dealt with by the use of compulsory powers.”
The response accuses the Commissioners of preferring to “frustrate the AAP than engage in a meaningful dialogue” and says that they are “simply not as well placed, or experienced, as the council to judge the wider public interest”.
At the end of December, Ms Worden had stated that East Riding Council’s AAP could be “seriously at risk” and listed 13 points which she felt needed further discussion and set a February 17 deadline for the council to respond.
Earlier this month, the council voiced its concerns over the fairness of the inspection and said another public hearing “would be helpful, if not necessary” – despite revelations that they had spent £65,000 on counsel fees during December’s hearing.