Moray boat owners set to pay the price for Harbour losses

Hopeman - enjoys a zero crime rate
Hopeman Harbour – private sector partnerships to be studied

THE IMPORTANT ROLE Moray’s Council-owned harbours play in the local economy will be underlined at a meeting today.

The six harbours owned by the local authority – Buckie, Burghead, Cullen, Findochty, Hopeman and Portknockie – reported joined losses of £135,.000 between them last year.

In addition to discussing spending of almost £700,000 on repairs at Porknockie and Burghead harbours today, a meeting of the economic development and infrastructure services committee will debate proposals on a new operating model for the harbours.

While acknowledging the major role the harbours play in the local economy, a report by transportation manager Nicola Moss reveals that Moray is “missing out” by charging well below the national average for boats using their facilities.

Councillors will be told that an opportunity exists to turn the loss-making enterprises into profit that could generate at least £37,000 each year by increasing leisure charges.

One of the more controversial measures being proposed would see a current discount system for boat owners aged over 60 being scrapped – with Ms Moss pointing out that is not a service offered at harbours not owned by the local authority such as that at Lossiemouth.

The paper focusses on the results of a cross-functional workshop with council officers that came up with proposal for each harbour:

  • Cullen: Sea School as core activity – harbour fulfils a role in developing nautical skills, attracting people across the region to Moray’s coastline.
  • Portknockie: Focus on the harbour as a tourist destination, with possible estate development – ranging from camping pods to holiday flat/café/toilets building scheme. Possible future expansion of pontoons.
  • Findochty: Focus on the harbour as a marina – work with Three Harbours Association on the potential to find funding for additional
  • Buckie: Focus on commercial opportunities, incorporating existing work to attract offshore renewables supply chain.
  • Hopeman: Look at opportunities to work in partnership with the private sector to redevelop quayside area.
  • Burghead: Capitalise on the history of the area working in partnership with heritage trusts, and encouraging greater use of the harbour area for events.
Burghead Harbour – Capitalise on history of the area

The report adds: “The most notable change in the proposals is with recreational harbour fees, where a single charge currently applies to pontoon berths, other berths and boats stored on the quayside.

“It is proposed to split this into a scaled range based on facility and convenience: the cheapest fee being an annual slipway pass, then a fee to store on harbour ground with slipway access, a fee for berths other than pontoon, and the most expensive fee being for a pontoon berth.

“On this basis it is proposed to consult on a decrease in fee for quayside storage and other berths, and an increase for pontoon berths. This differential should provide more choice for harbour users (subject to availability).

“The total annual effect of the revised leisure charges, should they be implemented is a minimum of £37,000. The recreational income increase is based on all boats being no more than 5m long, which is a cautious view as it is not possible to determine which option any individual boat owner may choose.

“If an average boat length of 8m is used, the increase in recreational income becomes £62,000pa.

“The increased income in the first instance is to take the harbours to a position where they don’t require council revenue funding to cover their existing costs.

“This makes the harbours more sustainable, and also creates an improved position when making the case for either increased budget for basic maintenance other business cases from the development plans.”