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News - 20/04/14

Support the Cowes Breakwater Project

Cowes Harbour Commission is ready to deliver: 
As many of you know, Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) has been working to deliver an Outer Harbour breakwater, providing East Cowes and Cowes (together ‘Cowes’) with a true, sheltered harbour. We were doing this in partnership with the Regional Development Agency (RDA), SEEDA; however, the Government abolished the RDAs and transferred their assets to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). This has meant a change in partnership and approach for CHC and a delay in delivering the breakwater. 

The HCA has confirmed their on-going support and funding commitment for the Outer Harbour breakwater as part of their investment to the East Cowes Project. The HCA however, does not have the project management remit of its predecessor SEEDA. 

Cowes Harbour Commission believes that an Outer Harbour breakwater is vital to the local economy and to the safety and future prosperity of Cowes Harbour. The HCA has asked CHC to take the lead role to procure and manage the harbour infrastructure works as part of the project delivery. The Commissioners have therefore agreed that CHC should take on this responsibility. This is a change from our previous responsibility as a funding partner but we think it’s the right thing to do for our community.

Protecting the Harbour and the local economy
Cowes is not a natural harbour and is very exposed to weather from the northerly quadrant highlighted by significant gales this season which resulted in the sinking of five yachts in the harbour.

It is not just the harbour that the breakwater will protect and strengthen, but the local economy.

The breakwater will:
• Protect the vessels moored within our harbour, extending the sailing season.
• Reduce the risk of damage to waterside businesses and premises.
• Create an environment where new businesses can be enabled to set up on sites which were previously too exposed, bringing new employment and investment opportunities into Cowes and the Isle of Wight.
• Enable an HCA-led marina development capable of accommodating larger yachts and providing the opportunity to attract new events to the Island.
• Reduce the risk of ferry connections being affected by adverse berthing conditions and the “knock-on” effect that it has on Island trade and tourism.
• Establish Cowes as a destination for small visiting cruise ships, by providing improved shelter for Trinity Landing.

The new breakwater will enhance Cowes’ reputation as an international centre for yachting excellence, a gateway to the Island and as a visitor destination.

Increasingly, Cowes is competing with mainland harbours, such as Weymouth and Portland, both of which benefited from substantial infrastructure investment as hosts of the 2012 Olympic Games. The breakwater project will capture significant central Government funding and will be an ‘enabling development’ – one that enables other businesses to grow and expand and act as a catalyst for new investment.

Cowes is the best “shop window” for the strengths and lifestyle attributes of the Isle of Wight. Cowes and the Medina Valley together are considered to be the engine and driver for the Island’s economy. The proposed investment will encourage growth in the leisure sailing market and wider tourism. It will also provide the environment for growth in the skilled marine manufacturing and servicing sectors.

The breakwater project will:
• Protect and strengthen Island jobs.
• Improve facilities for local residents and visiting boaters.
• Facilitate business growth and new business development.
• Raise the profile of Cowes as a destination.
• Enable future investment and employment opportunities.
• Improve and extend the events season.
• Attract more visitors to Cowes.

Financial commitment
Cowes Harbour Commission had previously committed in a Memorandum of Understanding to funding with SEEDA for the consenting and design of the Outer Harbour breakwater. This arrangement continues with the HCA.

CHC will be using our financial reserves to fund half of CHC’s commitment. These reserves have been built up over a period of time from our marine businesses, and we are now investing them back into the harbour infrastructure for the benefit of the community. We will fund the balance from a commercial loan, to be repaid from future CHC revenue streams.

CHC shall continue to look for other methods of funding that would enable us to bring forward completion of the overall harbour infrastructure development including the extension to the Shrape breakwater and Eastern channel dredge.

We must act quickly, or lose external investment
The HCA commitment to the project, transferred from SEEDA, will not stay open indefinitely. We need to urgently progress with this project now, in order to secure the prioritisation of the project within the HCA portfolio.

The HCA is a national, central Government body with many demands on its resources. The breakwater is ready to go, fully consented and Cowes Harbour Commission is prepared to drive, manage and part fund delivery, making a significant investment in terms of both financial and other resources. This puts the breakwater in a strong position compared with most national competing projects. HCA has confirmed the importance of positive local public support for their investments. This requires the Isle of Wight Council, local town councils and stakeholders to re-confirm their support for this important investment for the Island and its future.

It’s time to deliver
The time for constructing the Cowes breakwater has arrived. The project has all necessary permissions in place to proceed and we are building a strong, professional team to help take this forward.

In June 2012, we appointed Atkins, one of the world’s leading engineering and design consultancies and masterminds for the London 2012 Games, to project manage the procurement of the harbour infrastructure. A European tender document has already been advertised to enable the project to progress.

Cowes Harbour Commission’s commitment to funding and more active involvement in delivery of the breakwater should secure the HCA continued commitment to the project, if we act now. The tendering stage for the breakwater construction contractor, managed by Atkins, is due to be completed by end December. This should lead to construction of the breakwater commencing in the spring of 2013.

CHC is committed to keeping the Advisory Committee, harbour users and stakeholders, informed every step of the way. We will also be posting regular updates on our progress on the Harbour Commission’s websites.

You can help us deliver
To put this project at the top of the HCA’s priorities, and capture that crucial infrastructure investment for the Island, we need your positive support. We need the Isle of Wight Council, local councils and stakeholders to publicly voice their support for the breakwater as a project that will bring strategic economic benefits to the Island, protecting existing jobs and enabling new business opportunities.