The Crown Estate has sparked fury after ordering boat owners in Portgordon to find new moorings by the end of next month.
Insisting that they are acting to protect the safety of boats and their owners, the order from the government land management agency say the move is the result of damage to the east pier caused by storms last winter.
But boat owners say they cannot understand the decision that will affect around 20 boats.
The chairman of the Portgordon Community Harbour group, Lee Brown, said; “Local boat owners see it as a big blow due to the high waiting list of other moorings up and down the coast.
“I feel gutted because of all the efforts the group have put in have gone to waste. I’m looking at the wider picture and how it will affect the village of Portgordon as a whole and the vast amount of tourists that come to the area.
“I’m still trying to take it all in – the harbour is a great place to go and all that is going to disappear.”
The group had plans to create a pontoon system that would permit around 50 to 60 boats to moor at the harbour, greatly increasing revenue raised.
A 40-foot section of the harbour collapsed during a major storm along the Moray coast just before Christmas last year. Locals learned earlier this year that repairs would cost between £300,000 and £400,000, with the Crown Estate previously unaware that they were the owners.
Speaking for the Crown Estate, Alan Laidlaw said: “Following damage sustained to the east pier last winter and our subsequent review of the structure, we are requesting that all boats currently within the harbour be removed by Tuesday, September 30 in order to protect both the boats and the safety of vessel owners.
“The harbour was closed by an act of parliament in 1947 so it is not officially open to boat activity. This request for boat removal follows the issue of formal notice to mariners earlier this year.
“Reinstatement works to improve the structure of Portgordon harbour’s east pier are scheduled to commence towards the end of 2014, depending on weather conditions and contractor availability.”