Statement made at Full Council Meeting on 15.10.15
The Town Hard
As many of the residents of Brightlingsea will be aware, there have been objections raised regarding the £25 per year charge that Brightlingsea Town Council (‘BTC’) makes for people to launch boats privately from the Hard and the £250 that businesses pay to launch for business purposes. BTC thinks these charges are very reasonable.
BTC consider it to be their wider public duty to manage the amenities of the Town in a manner that is financially responsible. Neither BTC nor Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners (BHC) make any profit from the Hard.
Historically, the Hard has run at a loss to BHC of roughly a few thousand pounds per year due to high maintenance costs.
BTC believes that it has to manage local facilities and assets for the good of all. Brightlingsea residents who do not use the Hard probably represent the great majority of local council tax payers. BTC is concerned that if it always uses Council Tax to subsidise the maintenance costs of the Hard, the non-Hard users may consider that this is not a fair use of taxpayers’ money.
BTC has taken legal advice regarding (1) its ownership and (2) its legal right to charge. This advice is consistent and clear. In summary:
- In 2005, HM Land Registry (‘HMLR’) themselves registered the entire Hard to BTC with freehold title absolute on the basis of the documents submitted at the time. This is the best class of title that HMLR can grant. It is defined as being incapable of challenge. HMLR destroy old deeds because they are replaced by the register which is legally conclusive. Any challenge to this is a matter for HMLR.
- BTC may have permitted public access to the disputed area of the Hard, but as owners of the land, BTC remain entitled to charge for that access, and numerous law firms have confirmed this over many years.
It therefore continues to be BTC’s policy to make such reasonable charges to all the users of the Hard as is required to run it with fiscal prudence.