More than 50 boats demonstrate against new plans

More than 50 boats gathered off Yarmouth on Sunday to protest about proposed changes to the town’s harbour.

Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners (YHC) have filed a planning application to modernise the harbour, removing many of its traditional pile moorings.

But protesters believe the plans will ‘potentially change the harbour from a popular sailing destination into a sterile marina’, so yachts, motorboats, RIBs, Yarmouth Scows and rowing boats gathered outside the breakwater, carrying banners and sounding klaxons and whistles.

Yarmouth resident, sailor and co-organiser of the protest, John Caulcutt, said the harbour would become ‘a bland, featureless boat park’ if the plans were successful.

He said: ‘Many marinas along the south coast are mostly populated by yachts and motorboats that are seldom used because their absentee owners – both private and corporate – have neither the time nor the money these days to use their boats as often as they thought they would when they first bought them.

‘The plans effectively turn the harbour into a dormitory marina where owners can leave their boats in safety while they get on with their lives elsewhere.

‘There will be fewer visitors with less cash passing over the counters of the town’s businesses, shops, pubs and restaurants which will have an immediate knock-on effect on revenues from business rates and the general atmosphere and appearance of the town.’

Protesters argue that the changes will make it impossible for the harbour to host the annual Old Gaffers Festival, which attracts more than 100 classic boats to the town each June.

Mr Caulcutt and his co-organiser Peter Isaacs made a Freedom of Information request in July to try and discover the full extent of the plans, but the YHC chief executive told them that the harbour’s Trust Port status meant he was not legally bound to reply.

Mr Caulcutt said: ‘While this is technically correct, guidance from central government suggests that the harbour commission should be open and apply the principles of the Freedom of Information Act.

‘The commission’s lack of candour and openness in revealing documentation has made commenting upon the consultation and this planning application extremely difficult.

‘The businesses in Yarmouth and the thousands of yachtsmen that visit the town need more time to consider and assess the likely consequences of these plans.’

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