Plans for a new harbour in Selsey to boost the town’s fishing industry, tourism and flood defences are set to be ditched.
Consultants employed to look at the feasibility of the Selsey Haven project near East Beach last year estimated a cost of between £14m and £19m.
Alongside berths for leisure and commercial use it has been suggested the new harbour could include a cafe, restaurant and two retail units.
But the project’s working group has raised concerns that the original concept of a small haven has developed into a harbour for 130 berths, which it says would be ‘excessive’ for Selsey and would unlikely to be accepted by residents.
Since the consultants concluded a smaller harbour is not viable Chichester District Council is set to cease work on the project, with a final decision due to be made by cabinet members next Tuesday (March 6).
Officers are recommending that ‘no further council resources are committed to progressing the Selsey Haven proposals’.
Instead the council is set to outline a number of actions to be taken forward as part of work on a new vision for Selsey.
These could include better pedestrian wayfinding between the town centre and the east and west beaches, new temporary commercial units or concessionary opportunities, employing a seafood and sales marketing champion, developing crab and lobster events and improving the public realm and East Beach.
A total of £50,000 was set aside for the feasibility work by CDC, Selsey Town Council and the Selsey Fisherman’s Association last year.
A socio-ecomic study suggested that a haven could provide another £12m to the local economy over a 12-year period.
The project would provide safe mooring for the town’s fishing industry, more facilities to enable catches to be unloaded and processed, improved safety and attractiveness of East Beach for visitors, a destination point for Selsey, more opportunities for fishermen to sell directly to the public, and a new location for leisure boat users, divers and others.
Consultants stated the wide belief that without the construction of a haven the future of Selsey’s fishing industry is in ‘jeopardy’.
The haven would also improve coastal protection by protecting the current seawall and reducing the cost of its maintenance.
More than £1m of fish is landed in Selsey every year, but working conditions for fishermen is dangerous as they launch directly from the beach, while the value of landed catch has not kept pace with the cost of living.
The report said: “Many people believe that this important part of Selsey’s heritage will not survive over the medium term, unless action is taken to improve conditions and infrastructure for the fishermen.”
A feasibility report by Vail Williams outlines how other harbours in the area have reported that moorings occupancy is ‘struggling’, but there may be a move from buoyed swinging and mud moorings to walk-ashore pontoon moorings within a boatyard or marina.
The consultant references a very low rate of new marina construction over the last two decades, with a new leisure boat marina at Selsey benefitting from ‘comparatively deep water’.
It would be accessible at all states of tide, making it ‘superior’ in this respect to some of the other marinas within Chichester Harbour.
But the report continued: “This does not necessarily mean that a leisure boat marina at Selsey will be a prime location.
“The entrance to a small harbour here will be somewhat exposed to southerly winds so it could be tricky to enter and exit, particularly in rougher seas.
“A marina at Selsey will only appeal to boat owners wanting direct access to the open sea, and not to those who cruise around the harbour.
“This means that its market might well be limited to mainly motor boaters who do not wish to be restricted by the harbour speed limits.
“It is our expectation that a leisure boat marina at Selsey would have a relatively limited market.”
In contrast Chichester Harbour is described as having the advantage of an ‘attractive setting and sheltered water’ and a large number of existing moorings for leisure craft.
The harbour also has a number of active sailing clubs, while the consultant did not expect to have many dive boats permanently based at Selsey.
Meanwhile charter vessels or passenger trip boats would be more likely to operate from larger population centres in The Solent such as Southampton.
It was also questioned whether fishermen would expect free or heavily discounted mooring in the haven.
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