A full update on the delivery of the Cowes Breakwater Project formed one of the main topics in the Chief Executive, Capt. Stuart McIntosh's presentation at the Annual Public Meeting held last week. Cowes Harbour Commission re-confirmed the Cowes Breakwater Project as of crucial importance to the harbour and the wider Island community, and is standing by its plans to progress this strategically important scheme.
Stuart stressed in the presentation that, whilst the project was perhaps seen as a marine development for the benefit of yachtsmen and harbour users, the main driver for the Commission was the project's vital importance to the local and Island economy, and to employment protection and creation.
Protecting the harbour and Island economy
Cowes Harbour Commission considers that with the current pressures on the local and Island-wide economy - as well as the challenges from other leisure harbours competing for Cowes' prestigious yachting events and business - the delivery of an Outer Harbour breakwater remains vital. It will help to protect existing jobs, attract more visitors to Cowes, improve and extend the events season, facilitate business growth and development, and enable future investment and employment opportunities in Cowes and East Cowes.
Strong base of stakeholder support for breakwater
The strength of the proposed Cowes Breakwater Project lies also in the convincing and extensive endorsement it has received from major stakeholders and harbour users, local Councils, business associations, the CHC Advisory Committee, yacht clubs and Class Associations alike.
The new breakwater will make Cowes a "fit for purpose" harbour and be a key component to maintaining and fulfilling the potential of Cowes Harbour as a world centre of sailing and boating excellence, in a highly competitive market, and facilitate its ongoing development for future generations. Simply doing nothing would put at risk this vital position, reputation and capability, with the potential for serious damage to the local economy and employment.
Board of Commissioners decide way forward to address funding situation
At its May Board Meeting on Friday, 24 May, Commissioners looked in detail at all the current funding options to progress the Cowes Breakwater Project:-
The Commissioners unanimously agreed that every effort will be made to continue working with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to find a funding solution for the breakwater delivery. The Commissioners commented that whilst the HCA has not yet been in a position to confirm funding, it has continued to reiterate its commitment to the Breakwater Project and to progress a funding solution.
The Commissioners agreed at their May meeting that HCA partnership investment, backed up by continued support from the Isle of Wight Council, was the only guarantee for the project delivery. The Commissioners acknowledged the importance of engaging with the new, Independent-controlled IW Council at the earliest opportunity, to stress the importance of this project to the Island.
Other funding options considered
The Commissioners considered alternative funding options as follows:-
* Sale of Shepards Wharf and/or Kingston Wharf
The Commissioners agreed that it was not in the best interests of the stakeholders to sell these assets at the present time. CHC's policy for investing in strategically important harbour services and facilities had provided a sound financial base, reducing reliance on harbour dues and enabling the Commission to promote the Breakwater Project. The Commissioners therefore agreed that these important assets needed to be maintained at the present time, not only to protect the Commission's (and its stakeholders') sound financial basis, but also because they will be required as bank security for commercial loans that would still be required for the breakwater funding even if the CHC assets were sold.
The Commissioners agreed that any non-strategic assets would be considered for disposal in order to maximise cash reserves.
* Breakwater charitable trust
Commissioners are giving serious consideration to the principles and potential benefits of setting up a charitable trust as one of the preferred options for funding the shortfall in the Cowes Breakwater Project. The basis for this proposal is that the Breakwater Project is a stakeholder project, aimed at providing long-term sustainable benefit to the harbour, local community and all the stakeholders. It is therefore a public benefit project.
A breakwater charitable trust would potentially have the following advantages:
- Enable organisations, companies or individuals to make donations to the breakwater charity, potentially linked to naming rights, in a cost effective manner.
- Provide financial advantages during both the construction phase and for future lifetime maintenance.
The Commissioners have taken initial legal advice that indicates that the Breakwater Project meets the outline objectives for an application to set up a charitable trust. The Advisory Committee and stakeholders were consulted on the principle of setting up a charitable trust and after receiving their support CHC has begun to take this forward.
* European and national grant aid
Commissioners will continue efforts to investigate all possible grant aid funding sources and opportunities.
The Commissioners concluded their presentation at the Annual Public Meeting with a pledge of their commitment to continuing to work with the Homes and Community Agency and Isle of Wight Council, and the other stakeholder partners, to deliver the Cowes Breakwater for the long-term prosperity and future of Cowes and the Isle of Wight. They also thanked the audience and stakeholders for their continued strong support and backing for the project.
Further information on the Cowes Breakwater Project is available at: