On a warm and sunning May evening, Cowes Harbour Commission’s Annual Public Meeting saw very good attendance at the Island Sailing Club in Cowes with over 70 people turning out to listen to the Harbour Master, Capt. Stuart McIntosh’s presentation of CHC’s Annual Report and key development projects taking place in Cowes Harbour during 2015.
CHC Chairman Roger Mathias welcomed everyone to the CHC Annual Public Meeting and and thanked the Island Sailing Club for the generous loan of their function room for the event. Roger went on to introduce the current Board of Commissioners and their portfolio areas to those present at the Meeting and noted that the 2014-2015 Annual Report had been published in its entirety on the CHC website a week ahead of the Meeting. CHC’s financial statements for 2014 are also available to view on the website.
Capt. Stuart McIntosh delivered a short presentation of the Annual Report and highlighted the following areas:
• CHC is well on the way to delivering the strategic objectives as set out in the 2010-2015 Strategic Framework Document.
• Key achievements for 2014 to 2015 included completion of phase 1 of the new Cowes Breakwater construction, major repair projects at Kingston Wharf and also for the Trinity Landing pontoons, and investment at Shepards Wharf Marina with a new crane and refurbished events centre.
• CHC invested almost £4.7 million into stakeholder dividend projects during 2014, with a significant proportion funded from returns from CHC’s marine service operations which are reinvested back into the port.
The second half of the presentation focused on the major harbour projects currently in progress, namely the Cowes Breakwater Project, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) East Cowes development, the Solent Gateways project, and CHC’s strategic policy review and plans for 2015-2020.
Cowes Breakwater Project
The Harbour Master emphasised that this is a partnership project with funding partner the HCA, contractors Boskalis Westminster, project managers Atkins, and hydrodynamic consultant engineers ABPmer. Whilst the key objective has always been to provide Cowes with a sheltered harbour, the main driver for CHC is for the new Cowes Breakwater to act as a catalyst for inward investment to support economic growth and job creation, as is already being seen in East Cowes with the HCA proposed new marina and shoreside development.
Stuart McIntosh gave an update on the proposed construction programme for 2015, due to start in June. The latest and most up-to-date information will be published on the CHC website and in the monthly E-newsletters to stakeholders.
CHC is aware that the breakwater Exclusion Zone results in yachts starting to the east, from Cowes yacht clubs’ shore start lines having to go further north and into deeper water and stronger tides. Following consultation with Cowes Clubs and Classes Association, an alternative start line position to the east of the new breakwater has been approved for classes of day boats to use when conditions make it difficult for yachts to clear the fairway to the east from the traditional shore start lines.
Issues surrounding the tidal regime and sedimentation regime in Cowes Harbour were also addressed in the presentation with confirmation that CHC has commissioned a new tidal model which will be used to optimise the design of the remaining elements of the Outer Harbour Plan with the objective to mitigate any tidal impacts from the new breakwater.
CHC is also monitoring sedimentation and carrying out regular surveys including a full harbour bathymetric survey, although it is too early to tell yet if there are any changes to the net sediment regime within the harbour.
It was noted that at present, construction on the new breakwater is only at the halfway stage with the dredging of the new Eastern Channel and construction of the Shrape breakwater extension still to come, and therefore there is opportunity to utilise the new tidal model to optimise the design of the remaining harbour infrastructure elements and mitigate impacts on the final tidal and sedimentation regimes in the harbour.
Proposed Victoria Marina East Cowes development
In March of this year a development agreement was signed, subject to conditions, between the HCA and their preferred partners, Camper & Nicholsons and Westcourt. This scheme will bring a potential £50 million inward investment into East Cowes and the harbour, as a direct result of the protection provided by the new Cowes Breakwater. Importantly, the new marina and East Cowes development will fund delivery of the Shrape extension and Eastern Channel dredge.
Solent Gateways project
The Solent Gateways project, is a government funded project including a potential £15m grant from the Local Enterprise Partnership with approximately 50% of the funding coming to the Island. The project funding will also deliver a new Cowes Chain Ferry, the importance of this transport link being acknowledged by CHC, with the Harbour Master invited to sit on the Chain Ferry procurement board.
The vision for Cowes Harbour in 2020 and beyond
Stuart McIntosh gave an update on CHC’s strategic review process and consultation with stakeholders which has included, at the request of stakeholders, discussions on a number of ‘grey areas’ which may be considered on the ‘boundary’ of CHC’s statutory duties. In CHC’s new Strategic Policy Document for 2015-2020, the Commission will consult on and promote the development of a Master Plan for Cowes Harbour which will aim to cover all areas of interest to stakeholders.
CHC’s key themes and initiatives for 2015-2020 will include an emphasis on partnership working, completion of the Outer Harbour Plan, water quality and conservation, maintaining sound finances, and the proposed strategic Master Plan for Cowes to encompass future proofing, employment and investment, and access to the harbour.
Questions to Commissioners
A lively debate followed the Harbour Master’s presentation, with questions posed regarding the new Cowes Breakwater, tidal flows and sedimentation, race start lines and safety management in the harbour. CHC will issue a full update in June regarding safety and navigational information for this year’s breakwater construction programme, along with the latest information on tidal flows and sedimentation monitoring.
Questions from the audience also covered encouraging a wider representation of the public on the Board of Commissioners, especially by way of age and gender, water quality and pump out facilities, issues surrounding the potential loss of swinging moorings in the harbour, waterfront employment sites, launch ramp facilities, and the Destination Cowes initiative, all of which are being fully considered by CHC as the Commission moves into the final stages of developing the new Cowes Harbour Strategic Policy Document for 2015-2020.