A project to repair a dilapidated wooden sea wall, designed to stop silt and sand entering Bembridge Harbour, appears to have run aground. 

A community group has been raising cash to pay for the repair of the groyne, which was first built in the 1800s. Calls for its restoration have been made since the 1950s.

Now, Bembridge Harbour Users Group (BHUG), which has been leading the project, says it has no choice but to walk away.

After spending nearly £19,000 - and dedicating hours of volunteer work - BHUG says protracted delays and the impact of the Covid lockdown, on finances and movement, have forced it to halt its plans.

In his heyday, Bembridge Harbour ran all the way to Brading and had national importance. These days it welcomes summer visitors, is used by marine businesses and houseboat dwellers and is a safe haven for local boatowners.

It needs regular dredging to stop it silting up. Harbour onwers bought a dredger in 2018 and work was carried out took place in 2019. 

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The channel to the sailing club. BHUG says parts of the harbour have not been dredged for at least 6 years, leading to less usuable time on the water.

The groyne would offer protection against silting, say project supporters, and BHUG has told the County Press that a new sandbank has developed where some remember boats anchoring at low tide. 

It wants dredging to be carried out more often and says some boat users have already moved to other Isle of Wight moorings, including at East Cowes, where there is 24-hour access and no tidal limitation.

2019 was a good year for the harbour, according to those who run it.

A newsletter from last year highlighted dredging at Attrills Point and Bembridge Marina, as well as welcoming more than ‘100 boats on summer weekends and many more on event weekends.’ 

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A number of harbour development plans are in the pipeline, submitted by its owners, but have stalled, while BHUG says plans for the groyne are being impacted by delays not directly related to the project. 

BHUG said: “It was impossible to continue [with the groyne plans], as the team of volunteers at the heart of the project were no longer available.

“The prospects for the necessary fundraising of around £250k now appear to be somewhat remote, given the current financial climate and other essential preparatory work would need to be reworked.

“The decision to abandon the project came after the committee concluded that the delay has had such a negative impact as to make the project unachievable.”

Isle of Wight County Press:

High and dry on harbour mud, which BHUG says is getting more frequent

Harbour owner Bembridge Harbour Authority (BHA) said: “BHA believe the refurbishment of this groyne should proceed and hence are very disappointed that BHUG has withdrawn.

“The assumption is that it relates to possible problems, understandable in the context of the current Covid-19 situation, with raising the necessary funding, especially when the majority of the initial set up work has been completed.

“BHA has been pursuing a regeneration planning application for the development of a new admin and facilities complex at the Duver Marina and a new facilities building and car park at Bembridge Marina, funded by the subsequent development of 13 houses overlooking the Harbour.”

It argues its development plans are vital to enable Bembridge Harbour to compete with others nearby and says plans for a new admin and facilities complex and the groyne refurbishment are ‘of equal importance to the harbour’s future viability.’

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A 'new' sandbank, with homemade guage in centimetres. Croquet was held here in summer.

In 2016, planning permission was granted for the mooring and/or stationing of 25 houseboats for permanent residential use.

A decision has yet to be made on other plans for industrial units and parking, two terraces of houses, and a floating shower and toilet block. 

In September, a second community group, the Bembridge Harbour Trust, set up to “preserve and enhance Bembridge Harbour, its approaches and setting for the benefit of the public, including users of the Harbour and the communities of Bembridge and St Helens”, called the groyne project a ‘statutory’ requirement and called for action from the harbour owners to make it happen.

The BHA insists it continues to fully support the repair of the groyne.