ANGRY Ryde Harbour users have hit out at the Isle of Wight Council for not keeping the harbour in working order.

Currently, a build up of silt is blocking part of the entrance and exit to the harbour, meaning some berth holders are unable to use their boats.

According to the users, the council sent a digger and a dumper to remove some of the build up for one day but they believe that is not enough.

However, a spokesperson for the Isle of Wight Council said the build up in Ryde Harbour happened 'rapidly' in late December and early January in a period where dredging cannot take place, due to conditions in its dredging licence.

The council said it cleared it at 'the earliest opportunity' over five days from February 9, when 'a large amount of silt was moved'.

It said: "It is appreciated this only marginally reduced the build up.

"It is now planned machinery will be back to continue the dredging when a larger spring tide will allow the machinery longer to work on the other side of the channel."

The council also said a navigational warning has been issued by the Queen's Harbourmaster, Portsmouth 'at the request of Ryde Harbour' being sent by email to all berth holders and on display in the harbour office.

Alan Venters, who pays £1,000 to keep his boat in the harbour, said "We do worry about the build up — it restricts our time to get in and out of the harbour.

"Ordinarily, I can come out of here two hours before high water and get straight through, now it is harder and I only have an hour.

"We are paying money for our boats we cannot use."

Mike Drinkwater said he and fellow users in fishing boats and catamarans couldn't get out at all.

He said: "We are landlocked — the council are never going to clear it."

Other sailors complained there was no communication between the council and those using the harbour, coupled with a lack of investment.

Stuart Hollister said: "They are quite happy to take our money but not give us any information. There is no co-operation.

"Ryde Harbour is getting a bad name for itself and it is spreading — people won't come in here.

"There does not seem to be any investment in the harbour even though it supposedly makes money —Ventnor Harbour costs money yet our profits pay for that."

One sailor, who wished to remain anonymous, said they pay a lot of money to keep their boats in the harbour but 'for quite some time now it has been unusable'.

He said: "They don't care about us, not the locals — they only care about the income."

A lack of warning signs around the silt build up has also caused concern among the sailors, with the entrance described as a 'bottleneck, it was so narrow'

One accident saw a lady go over the bow of her boat as it was coming in, with its fenders out, and collided with the build up.

Another occasion saw a boat lose its rudder as it was trying to navigate out of the harbour.

Willie, a member of the Vectis Boating and Fishing Club, said he saw nine boats collide with sandbanks around the harbour entrance on one day in December.

Letters had been written to the harbourmaster explaining the issues the group have but users said they either got no reply or what 'little response' they did receive was 'ignorant'.

Willie said he was told by an assistant harbourmaster the dredging was to start on March 8 — which some of the group did not know — but it was concerning that 'almost another fortnight would go by allowing the harbour to silt up more'.

Nearly 18 inches of sand had now built up in the crust of the mud on the first jetty, so much so 'you can walk on it'.

Willie said: "The problem we have got all the time is with the incoming tide, it carries an ingress of sand predominantly two hours after low tide, on the flood, and it really is a sandstorm in the water.

"It deposits the sand around the harbour — the build up is not visible and it is unsafe."

Ryde Town Council has been in the process of taking over ownership of the harbour from the Isle of Wight Council and is preparing a business case, which includes a dredging survey that will take place soon.

A spokesperson for the town council said: "It is looking into alternative ways to deal with the build up of sand at the harbour entrance which has become a serious problem this winter.

"Should Ryde Town Council take over the harbour they would explore setting up a Harbour Liaison Group which would be made up of harbour users, stake holders and members of the Town Council.

"The town council views the harbour as an essential asset to the town, not only for harbour users, but for Ryde residents and visitors as well.

"The business case process is exploring and evaluating various options for improvements around the harbour.

"Obviously any improvements that have a bearing on health and safety for staff and harbour users will be a priority for the town council if the purchase is successful."

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