MORAY BOAT OWNERS with their vessels berthed at Council-owned harbours will be asked to pay more from April – but for many not as much as was originally proposed.
The issue was brought back to the economic development and infrastructure committee yesterday after officials accepted that the original paper on which councillors took their decisions was not as clear as it might have been.
One of the issues that most angered boat owners was the withdrawal of a discount for owners over 60, while another was increases being imposed with the promise of improvements to facilities – but not reflecting the actual facilities available.
While Buckie councillor Gordon McDonald argued strongly for a reduction in the method used for increased charges, his argument was defeated. However, a proposal by committee chairman Councillor John Cowe was welcomed.
That brought in a system where higher charges would only apply when the installation of water and electricity to pontoons and harbours was actually carried out – and that would only happen when the majority of owners voted for the improvements.
In addition, the over-60s discount would continue for those currently in receipt, although it would not be permitted for new owners over that age or those who had reached 60 after the new rules come into force.
Where increased charges come into play they will be on the basis of £60 per metre for a pontoon berth rounded up – so a 5.2metre boat would be charged at 6metres.
Where a harbour wall berth was used the rate would be £50 per metre and Quayside berthing would be at £40 per metre.
Chair of Moray Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor John Cowe, said he was glad new charges have been set: “The harbours need significant investment we know, but that won’t happen unless realistic berthing charges are set.
“Years of some councillors resisting a proper increase in fees has brought us to the position where we have to make up ground if these facilities are to be sustainable. When there are so many other vital services needing paying for, such as care for the elderly, the vulnerable, and educating our children, it feels perverse to subsidise berthing fees for boat owners.
“However, the committee have recognised the perceived ‘double whammy’ to boat owners who are over 60 and maintained the pensioner’s discount and the decision on water and electric will be made by the users of each individual harbour.”
SNP Councillor for Buckie, Gordon McDonald, was delighted that pressure from his group finally saw some justice for boat owners, saying: “The original decision on this issue in November was very flawed and the SNP has pushed very hard to get it back on the agenda.
“While we didn’t get everything we had hoped for what we do have is a much better deal for harbour users than the Council’s Administration were originally proposing. They have, in effect, U-turned under SNP pressure.
SNP Councillor Sonya Warren added: “The five administration Councillors on the committee who represent harbour communities – Councillors Wright, Cowe, Slater, Cowie and Shepherd – should take a long hard look at themselves.
“They did not back their communities in November nor did they do so today and I am sure that will have been noted by the folk who use the harbours and who are paying the price for the lack of investment by this Administration.”